Immigrant of the Day: Hamdi Ulukaya – Company Founder
I’ve featured many company founders in this column over the years, but not many have made headlines like Hamdi Ulukaya did this week. The Turkish-born immigrant is the founder of Chobani Yogurt (which I love). He also has just granted stock for 10% of the company to the 2000 employees in the company’s upstate New York plant, something that could make the longer-serving employees millionaires when the company eventually goes public.
Ulukaya grew up in a Kurdish farming village and initially came to the US as a student trying to improve his English. He began a business importing feta cheese and then bought a Kraft yogurt factory that had just been closed. Ulukaya believed that American-style yogurt was too sugary, watery and artificial and that Americans were ready for Greek-style yogurt. He single-handedly changed American tastes when he introduced Chobani Yogurt in 2007.
The billionaire also has also promised to follow Bill Gates’ lead and donate most of his fortune to charity when he dies. A lot of his charity work of late has been focused on the commendable work of helping refugees.