Is Starbucks Ignoring the Candy Store Principle?


Breakfast at Tiffany’s is one of my favorite movies. As I was re-watching it for the zillionth time this weekend, one scene in particular stood out to me as solid branding advice that a popular coffee chain just might be overlooking.


If you’re not familiar with the movie — the main character is Holly Golightly, a socialite whose life revolves around money, fancy people, and sparkly things. One night when she’s had a little too much whiskey, she compares herself to a wealthy woman and blurts out “if I had her money, I’d be richer than she is.”


Holly explains that she’d achieve those riches because she’ll always “keep the candy store.” No matter how rich she might become, she would never shut down the modest little candy store that got her started.



It struck me because I see way too many businesses straying from this idea as they grow. Starbucks is one, in particular, that’s overlooked their candy store principle.


To understand my thinking here, you have to understand my journey as a coffee-drinker:


I was raised a Dunkin’ Donuts girl. I loved the flavors, I loved that I could grab a Boston cream donut at the same time, and I especially loved the drive-through as a high schooler. Our local 24-hour Dunkin’ Donuts was also a hotspot for the cool kids my friends to hang out on weekends. #truestory


But when I started to get into nutrition in my early 20’s, a new love entered my life: Starbucks. Starbucks’ blended soy creations became the new flame for my aspiring vegan self.


The best part was if I used my pre-loaded Starbucks card, the normally 60-cent organic soy milk upgrade came free. For me and thousands of other dairy-avoiding caffeine addicts, this was a major benefit over other coffee joints. Candy shop: open for business.


Once I got a taste for the good stuff, I lost total interest in my old crush Dunkin’. I felt like a rockstar every time I scored free soy milk. I was a converted Starbucks girl and I had no plans of looking back.


A few years later, however, everything changed. Starbucks changed its loyalty program, and soy milk was no longer free.


Candy shop: cuh-losed.


The vegans took to the Internet in droves. They tweeted, they posted, they let Starbucks know that they weren’t happy. I even wrote on their Facebook wall, which I rarely do, to kindly ask them to reconsider their policy.


But alas, Starbucks held firm on their decision. And I respected it…but that doesn’t mean I liked it.


Like any heartbreak, I moved on. Three years later, I don’t really visit Starbucks anymore. I much prefer quirky independent coffee shops or new-to-me Midwestern chains like Julius Meinl.


Starbucks lost what could have been a loyal, lifelong customer by closing the candy shop that brought me there in the first place. It’s entirely possible that an extra $0.60 for each soy milk upgrade was worth the cost of Starbucks’ lost vegan customers.


But for myself and the small businesses I work with, losing customers like that definitely wouldn’t be.


As your business grows and evolves, it’s so important to never close your candy store. There are some things that will inevitably change as you scale, but there are also some that must stay constant if you’re playing the long-term customer game.


The key here involves identifying what your candy store looks like. And that involves answering three question:

1. What got you to where you are now?
2. What do your customer tell you they absolutely l-o-v-e about you and your business?
3. How can you keep your candy store alive even as you grow?


To give you an idea, here are a few elements of my candy shop:

Accountability – always acknowledge an email/voicemail the same day even if I can’t fully reply yet, deliver work as quickly as possible
Organization – stick to a concrete project calendar, keep projects on track even if my client gets distracted
Little extras – throw in unexpected somethings to add a smile or two into the project


Even as my business evolves and my schedule gets busier, I will make sure to keep my candy store the same. These are the features that got me to where I am today, and I don’t have plans to sell that candy store anytime soon.




Brilliant business wisdom on #scaling from Breakfast at Tiffany’s
The Candy Shop Principle from Breakfast at Tiffany’s will change the way you look at your small biz
What does Audrey Hepburn have to say about scaling your biz?

over to you



What does your candy store look like? How can you keep it from shutting down as your business grows?

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