Starbucks and the Muppet Platform

written by andrew

Starbucks along with its partner, Opportunity Finance Network, recently launched a campaign to help create jobs in the U.S. Entitled Create Jobs for USA, the goal is to create new financing for local businesses to help create and sustain jobs. It’s an innovative framework that deserves consideration. Starbucks is donating $5 million to OFN, which will in turn provide low cost loans to small businesses in underserved communities.

Some critics have charged Starbucks, with its deep connections to many American neighborhoods, could be providing more funding. While $5 million is, indeed, a drop in the bucket for a company with Starbucks’ vast leverage, I would assume the company is testing the model and would provide new seed financing if some successes are demonstrated. Triple Pundit’s Raz Godelnik writes in How Starbucks’ Jobs Campaign Missed the Point that there the larger strategic misalignment between the company and local businesses.

Starbucks could do it here by collaborating with local businesses and encouraging customers to buy local goods, announcing the addition of a local purchasing minimum goal, and so on. Instead, it chose a program that at best is an add-on, but does not create a real sustainable value.

I agree. If Starbucks seeks to fund strong ties between the company’s stores and franchises and local businesses throughout the country, CEO Schultz might encourage their stores to develop partnership opportunities, co-branding, or other tools to help small businesses. What would happen if each store was provided with a small grant to hire local businesses to provide milk products, in-store signage, or even cleaning services? What if Starbucks decided to create an initiative called “Starbucks Creates Local” in which small, home-based businesses were brought in to learn about the company’s marketing strategies and to provide small advertising and promotion campaigns for their products in-store? Moreover, what if those businesses got free promotion on local Starbucks’ websites for six months to power those campaigns.

These local and highly-focused practices would leverage the ideas and knowledge of local Starbucks workers, promote deeper ties with the community, and even maybe create sustainable small businesses.

What does any of this have to do with The Muppets? In the recent movie, our fuzzy friends, like many in North America, have fallen on hard times. Each of the characters have essentially given up hope that their dreams will ever come true. Kermit is living a secluded life while Fozzy Bear has become a sad lounge singer rehashing old tunes in Reno. In order to rebuild their show and save the old, dilapidated theater from a rapacious oil baron, the group attempts to raise $10 million. But the Muppets struggle with getting funding, despite their past successes.

I saw the film with my daughter this weekend and it was entertaining and joyful. It also struck me that the furry friends indeed needed a shot of capital—but would have also benefitted from a warm dose of advice and a platform promotion.

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