NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — People normally go to Starbucks for a coffee, a pumpkin spiced latte, or maybe a unicorn frappucino — but fertility treatments?
Struggling with infertility can be costly for families trying to have babies, but some women are giving up their jobs to become Starbucks baristas in order to pay for expensive in vitro fertilization procedures.
Shannon Iagulli and her husband Nic tell CBS2’s Anna Werner they desperately wanted children.
“It was the darkest time of my life,” she said. “Our marriage really took a hit.”
Four years into their marriage, it seemed Shannon couldn’t get pregnant.
“You go through your life hearing you grow up, you fall in love, you get married, you have kids, so when that doesn’t happen, you don’t understand,” she said. “Why is your body not doing it? Why isn’t the medicine working? Why can’t I give my husband a child?”
She says she felt personally responsible.
Around two years ago, Iagulli learned that Starbucks — yes, Starbucks — offered an unusual benefit: coverage for in vitro fertilization.
On average, IVF costs $20,000 per cycle, with most couples going through two to three rounds before getting pregnant.
“You think barista, you think 18 year old working to go to school, not a 27-year-old woman trying to have a baby,” Shannon said.
Yet the Seattle-based company covers $20,000 for IVF and related medication for all eligible employees. That includes part-time baristas who make, on average, about $10,000 a year.
“It’s just been part of who we are, that if you work here and you put in the time you’re going to get the benefits that make you a full partner,” Starbucks Chief Partner Officer Lucy Helm said.
Helm says it’s something the company is very proud of.
“People fall in love with working for our company once they become a partner here,” she said.
But business professor Craig Garthwaite, with Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, says it’s not just about making employees happy.
“In the end, Starbucks is a for-profit, publically traded company,” he said. “They’re not doing this out of the goodness of their heart. This is part of a cohesive strategy they have for how to attract and retain talent.”
He says part of it is also to show customers that they are a “good company, one that you want to spend a certain amount of money buying coffee at when you could potentially get that coffee cheaper somewhere else.”
Helm says with fewer people actually leaving the house to shop, places have to be a destination of sorts.
“Of course it’s a business case for bringing in more customers because they increasingly have that connection with who we are and who serves them,” Helm says.
Not everyone is happy with the company’s wages and benefits. Thousands have signed an online petition started by a barista complaining about understaffing and low morale.
But count Shannon among the happiest of Starbucks baristas. IVF gave the Iagullis not one baby, but two. At six weeks old, the pair of newborns made their first visit to a Starbucks — their mom’s workplace.
“They will know that that’s how they came about,” Shannon said. “That if it wasn’t for mommy going to make coffee that they wouldn’t be here.”
Now, Shannon supports other hopeful barista moms around the country. They’ve even got a Facebook group called, what else, “Starbucks IFV Mommas.”