Companies We Love and the People Behind Them: Chobani and Hamdi Ulukaya
In this month’s companies we love and the people behind them, we spotlight Hamdi Ulukaya from Chobani! Hamdi Ulukaya is the man behind the best selling yogurt brand in the United States, Chobani. Born in Turkey, Ulukaya came to the U.S. to study business in 1994. With his father’s encouragement he started Euphrates, a feta cheese company, in New York in 2001. One day Ulukaya saw an ad for a yogurt plant by Kraft for sale. The ad was in his junk mail pile so he threw it away. A couple hours later he dug it out of the trash and decided calling for more information couldn’t hurt. After visiting the plant, he knew he had to have it and took out a small business administration loan to help with the purchase. Greek Yogurt was very popular in Turkey and Greece, but America had not quite caught on. Ulukaya wanted to bring a healthy, delicious product to the United States, and so he began to perfect his recipe. In 2007, the first cup of Chobani Yogurt hit shelves and at this time the Greek yogurt market share in the U.S. was less than 1 percent. Today, it is 60 percent. The name Chobani means shepherd in Mediterranean languages and symbolizes giving but asking for nothing in return. Ulukaya started Shepherd’s Gift Foundation and donates 10% of the company’s profits to people that work to make a lasting change. Since 2007, the company has grown from 5 employees to nearly 3,000 and sales are over $1 billion dollars annually. Ulukaya hit Forbes Billionaires List in 2013 and accepted the World Winner Entrepreneur of the Year Award. He resides in New York with his dog Panja.
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