Alum pens Starbucks business strategy book

by Turia Lahlou | 10/8/07 2:19am

In his new book, "Starbucked: A Double Tall Tale of Caffeine, Commerce, and Culture," Taylor Clark '02 describes the growth of Starbucks from a relative unknown to a cultural icon.

Clark, a first-time author, said that companies like Starbucks, that come to dominate the American marketplace have always fascinated him.

"Starbucks and coffeehouses as a cultural phenomenon, and how quickly they became part of our lifestyle, drove me to write this book," he said. "Twenty years ago, no one had heard of a latt, and within a few years, people spent upwards of $100 a month on the drink."

Starbucks coffee is what consumer analysts label an "affordable luxury item." These items are small indulgences that help relieve the stress of everyday life.

"You can go in to [Starbucks] and order exactly what you want, and even if it is 20 words long, they will do it for you," Clark said. "Unlike stores with concrete floors and bad music, there are velour couches and everything is paid attention to. It makes the consumer feel good."

Clark said that he aimed for his book to be different from a typical corporate analysis, which he said aggressively presents a particular argument rather than allowing the reader to reach his or her own conclusions.

"A lot of books push a point of view," he said. "I try to be even and let the reader make up their mind. I don't say what I think until the end because my goal is to make someone curious and possibly even entertained."

Clark said that he has long been interested in writing. After graduating from Dartmouth, Clark said he considered entering a graduate writing program at Columbia University, but that he instead accepted an offer from Nigel Jaquiss '84 to work as an intern at the Williamette Week, a weekly newspaper in his home state of Oregon.

"I never saw myself in journalism, but I was decent at it so they offered me a full-time job," Clark said. "I worked as a staff writer for a couple years and wrote a column that sparked the interest of a publisher in New York, so I quit my job to write the book."

At 27 years old, Clark said he already sees another book in the future.

"I was only three years out of college when I started, and I kind of rushed into the challenge," he said. "I don't know what the next book will be about, and I will not write it necessarily immediately, but there are not too many people my age who have a novel under their belt."

Clark said that he is currently interested in freelance writing rather than in immediately beginning his next book because he is in what he calls his "hangover period," a time of relief following the rush of writing a book.

While at Dartmouth, Clark was a philosophy major with an English minor. He said one of his fondest memories is of spending time in the Dartmouth libraries, which he described as unique.

"I spent a lot time looking for the one perfect spot to spread out and have a decent amount of privacy," he said. "Baker tower room is really cool but it is impossible to study in there because it is so warm; half the people fall asleep. I really liked Webster [Hall] as well because of the huge windows and cubes they keep the books in."

Clark's book will appear in stores on Nov. 5.

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