Born into a family of Turkish cheese and yogurt makers, Hamdi Ulukaya landed in New York at the age of 23 with a little money and the intent of learning English. That plan soon turned into a dream of producing affordable, natural Greek yogurt in the United States, and providing more access to delicious, healthy food.
In 2005, the Turkish cheese-maker received a piece of junk mail from a local real-estate company – the local Kraft Foods plant closed down. Ulukaya saw this as an opportunity and bought the plant with the help of a loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration. He spent the next 18 months learning everything he could to create the perfect Greek yogurt recipe. In 2007, Chobani (meaning shepherd in Turkish) opened for business.
From a factory that has grown from five employees to two plants in the US, Chobani is the #1 yogurt brand in the US with $1 billion in revenue.
Forbes has called him “the Steve Jobs of yogurt” and Ernst & Young named Ulukaya the World Entrepreneur of the Year in 2013.
As a believer in “doing good business,” Ulukaya created the Chobani Foundation which directs 10% of brand profits to charitable groups working for positive and long lasting change.
“A cup of yogurt won’t change the world, but how we make it just might,” Ulukaya said.
Earlier this month, Ulukaya launched the Chobani Food Incubator to inspire more entrepreneurship in the food industry – and to make “Good food for more people.” He wants to start a food revolution and help nurture, support and celebrate today’s entrepreneurs.
As an inaugural member of the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE) initiative, Ulukaya wants to help more Americans and people around the world believe in and gain access to their own dreams. Among the many events he has attended to inspire others by sharing his entrepreneurial journey, Ulukaya recently participated in the Social Innovation Summit and Entrepreneurship Summit, both hosted in New York City.