Former Starbucks CEO (SBUX) Howard Schultz is funding a free online learning platform to help small businesses accelerate their recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
"America's future rests on our entrepreneurial fire. But in recent years, the spark within many entrepreneurs has struggled to find the oxygen to burn bright. The causes are many: the need for learning and community, the lack of capital and social networks, the systemic failures that lead many to not even try. That's why I believe this COVID-recovery platform is critical," Schultz wrote in a letter on Tuesday seen by Yahoo Finance.
Called BackTo.Biz, the learning program assembled by Seattle-based production company Creative Live features more than 400 video lessons, articles, and tools from entrepreneurs.
The BackTo.Biz curriculum touches on numerous topics such as hiring talent, e-commerce, brand building, pivoting business models, creating new revenue streams, finding ideal customers, managing stress, and more. Some of the lessons include "branding basics for social media marketing" with Daymond John; "optimism, leadership and the future of small business" with Backstage Capital managing partner Arlan Hamilton; and "negotiating your contracts" with Vanessa Van Edwards, to name a few.
'If COVID has struck us back then ... there would be no Starbucks today'
BackTo.Biz is the latest initiative to come from The Emes Project, the newest venture founded by Schultz and his wife, Sheri, to bring an entrepreneurial lens to public-private partnerships to incubate and support initiatives that create opportunity and accessibility for all. Schultz, 68, stepped down as CEO of Starbucks in April 2017 and as executive chairman in June 2018. Since leaving Starbucks, he's turned his attention to the Schultz Family Foundation, which supports at-risk youth and post-9/11 veterans, and now, the Emes Project LLC.
Known as someone who speaks on critical issues, Schultz has advocated for economic relief for struggling small businesses throughout the pandemic.
"When the COVID-19 pandemic forced millions of small businesses to shutter their doors last year, my mind, for a moment, jumped back to 1987, when I became chief executive of Starbucks. Back then, we too were a small business. We had just 11 stores and fewer than 100 employees, and sometimes we struggled to make monthly payroll. 'If COVID had struck us back then,' I thought to myself, 'there would be no Starbucks today,'" Schultz wrote in the BackTo.Biz letter.
In April 2020, Schultz helped more than 15,800 restaurant workers in his hometown of Seattle and King County, Washington, get much-needed cash ahead of federal stimulus through The Plate Fund, which offered one-time emergency relief grants of $500 to impacted staff within 48 hours.
Then, in August, Schultz led another effort writing a letter to Congress signed by more than 100 current and former CEOs urging Congress to increase government-backed economic relief for struggling small businesses through loans and grants.
"Thankfully, the eventual flow of PPP loans and other assistance, along with the perseverance of our entrepreneurs, helped save many businesses," Schultz wrote.
However, a year later, Schultz points out that thousands of small businesses still face an uncertain future.
"Not only have owners taken on significant debt and face mounting bills, they are reopening in a vastly changed world: Consumer behavior has undergone a seismic shift, and the need for digital transformation has accelerated," Schultz wrote.
BackTo.Biz aims to help small businesses "recover, pivot and bounce back even stronger."
Schultz is joined by the broader business community, with Ascend, Chase, Community Reinvestment Fund USA, Facebook, Grow with Google, Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, Intentionalist, Main Street America, Microsoft, Reimagine Main Street, Salesforce, Starbucks, Shopify, and Co. by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce all partnering with him to promote BackTo.Biz.
Schultz added that he intends to support other initiatives to help entrepreneurs in the U.S. in the months and years ahead.
Julia La Roche is a Correspondent at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.