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Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz Attributes Coffee Empire to His Upbringing in Brooklyn Projects

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Changing the way Americans consume coffee wasn’t how Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz made it out of the Brooklyn projects, but it was the way he achieved the American Dream.

In CNNMoney‘s new documentary series The American Dream: New York, Schultz, who grew up in the Bayview Houses, describes his road to success, specifically how he found opportunities for career advancement through hard work, determination, and initiative.

“There was no way out. My father was uneducated, my mother wasn’t working. It was just a tough time. As I got older, I just felt really bad for them,” Schultz admitted.

From a young age, Schultz realized sports was his only ticket out. Upon graduating from Northern Michigan University on a football scholarship, he began his career in sales and worked for a maker of drip coffee machines, whose clients included a small Seattle café called Starbucks.

“I don’t think I would have had the motivation, the curiosity and the fear of failure if I didn’t come from the background I have,” Schultz explained. “The most vulnerable thing I can say to you is I still have fear of failure today.”

As for the message Schultz has for Americans, especially young people: “It is our collective responsibility as Americans to lift everyone up.”

In April, Schultz will be stepping down as CEO and will serve as executive chairman to focus on innovation, premium offerings and social impact.

Others profiled in CNNMoney’s series include J. Crew CEO Mickey Drexler, former Xerox CEO Ursula Burns, former Federal Research Chairman Alan Greenspan and hip-hop legend Russell Simmons.

The full series, hosted by Cristina Alesci, airs on HLN/CNN International for the rest of the month.