Get your Starbucks, create a job

November 2, 2011: 11:50 AM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Starting Tuesday, Starbucks coffee drinkers can get their morning caffeine fix and help create jobs in small businesses across the country.

Starbucks Corp. (SBUX, Fortune 500) unveiled a program last month to help raise money to spur hiring among small businesses, considered the nation's job engine.

"We have a crisis of confidence in this country. Washington is not producing the leadership we need and I think it is time that corporations and business leaders realize that we too have to do something. We can't wait for Washington," said Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz in an interview with CNNMoney. "So this, in a sense, is using Starbucks' scale for good."

Scale, indeed. Starbucks has tens of millions of customers visiting its stores every week, according to Jim Olson, a spokesperson for the coffee giant. Starbucks will accept donations at almost 6,800 locations across the nation, in addition to its website at www.CreateJobsforUSA.org.

The program -- called Create Jobs for USA -- will pool donations from customers, employees, or any concerned American, which will be given to the Opportunity Finance Network.

Regulation nightmares

The Opportunity Finance Network consists of 180 community development financial institutions, which lend to many organizations, including small businesses. The idea is that if small businesses have capital, they will hire.

A community development financial institution, or a CDFI, is an organization certified by the Treasury Department. It gives low-interest government loans, grants and tax credits to organizations that specialize in economically developing, low-income and otherwise underserved markets.

Sense of responsibility: This is not the first time that Schultz has used his company as a platform. He corralled more than 100 CEOs to sign a pledge to stop making political campaign contributions.

"This is not about marketing. This is not about Starbucks. This is about us saying to ourselves, we can't sit by and be a bystander any longer," said Schultz. "It is about investing back into America."

And the idea is to instill that sense of responsibility and pride in Americans, too: patrons who donate at least $5 will get red, white and blue wristbands with "indivisible" printed on them.

For every $5, the CDFI should be able to lend out $35. According to estimates compiled by Opportunity Finance Network and independent economists, a new job will be created or saved for every $21,000 loaned, or every $3,000 donated.

That adds up to a lot of jobs: Starbucks expects to get millions of dollars in donations, and that is on top of the $5 million that the Starbucks Foundation is contributing to jumpstart the program.

Ditching debt

CDFIs in the Opportunity Finance Network have an average 98% repayment rate, meaning that almost all the dollars donated will be recycled -- or loaned out again.

Stepping up to the challenge. CNNMoney spoke to a handful of people and found that the majority of them had not heard about the program.

But Tuesday was only day one of the initiative. And the reaction to the program was mixed.

Jennifer Pupovic, a 20-year old student, who goes to goes to Starbucks every day, said she will not likely donate to the program. "I am a student," he said. "It is tough with the tuition costs. They are very high."

Savas Sevil, owner of the Central Park Bicycle Shop, said he supports the idea of the program, but he couldn't exceed his annual budget for donations.

"We create a lot of jobs here, so I am helping in that sense," he added.

Meanwhile, 24-year-old graduate student Shiemi Lim said she might donate to the fund. She would want to investigate who exactly is getting the money, but if she does decide to give money, getting a bracelet in recognition of her donation wouldn't much matter. "If I am giving, I am giving, I don't need a bracelet," she said. To top of page

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