Hamdi Ulukaya, Founder and CEO, Chobani, Inc. and EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year™ 2013 Award winner, interviewed by Mark A. Weinberger, EY Global Chairman & CEO
There’s no better place in the world to take an idea and grow it than the US, said Hamdi Ulukaya, Founder and CEO of Chobani, who joined EY Global Chairman & CEO Mark A. Weinberger at Strategic Growth Forum to discuss the positive impact that honesty, dignity and hard work have on a business.
Ulukaya, who was the recipient of both the 2012 US Entrepreneur Of The Year Award and the 2013 World Entrepreneur Of The Year Award, said those values, found in so many small towns and rural areas in the US, including the rural upstate New York town in which he launched Chobani, make this country fertile ground for entrepreneurs.
“We all look for the real,” he said, underscoring his own belief that being real and having a direct connection to your customers “is the most important thing.” He spoke with pride about how Chobani gives back to its communities and how employment at the company’s plant in Twin Falls, Idaho, helped transform the lives of two refugee sisters from Afghanistan.
“We need to refocus on small towns and villages and their values,” he emphasized. “Those are our roots.”
Ulukaya said that entrepreneurs need to infuse their companies with a sense of purpose to change business and the world. That means focusing on humanity instead of just profit. “(Entrepreneurs) are the young trees coming up in the forest,” Ulukaya said. “Don’t be shy of bringing your purpose. If new trees have a sense of purpose, we will have a better forest.
“Business is still the strongest, most effective way to change the world.”
Founder and CEO
EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year™ 2013 Award winner
In just over five years, entrepreneur and philanthropist Hamdi Ulukaya has grown Chobani from a yogurt start-up in central New York to a $1 billion business, making Chobani one of the fastest-growing companies in history. The company remains 100% financially independent. Now the No. 1-selling yogurt brand in the country, Chobani has transformed the US yogurt category with products that are delicious, nutritious, accessible to all and made with only natural ingredients. A Kurdish immigrant from eastern Turkey, Hamdi founded Chobani in 2005 with the help of a Small Business Administration loan. Chobani’s second manufacturing facility — the world’s largest yogurt manufacturing plant — is located in Twin Falls, Idaho. In 2010, Hamdi created the Shepherd’s Gift Foundation, which gives 10% of the company’s profits to support positive, lasting change in the community. Prior to Chobani, Hamdi was the founder of Euphrates, a feta cheese company. Hamdi is passionate about the revitalization of manufacturing in the US and the entrepreneurial potential of small towns and rural America. He sits on the boards of the American Turkish Council, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the Pathfinder Village and the Kennedy Center Corporate Fund. He resides in New Berlin, New York, with his two German shepherds.
Mark A. Weinberger
EY Global Chairman & CEO
Mark A. Weinberger became EY Global Chairman & CEO on July 1, 2013. With 175,000 people in more than 150 countries, the global EY organization is one of the largest professional services organizations in the world. Mark has served in a variety of leadership positions for EY, most recently as Global Vice Chair, Tax from 2008 to 2012. He was Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury (Tax Policy) in the George W. Bush Administration and was also appointed by President Clinton to serve on the US Social Security Administration Advisory Board. Mark sits on the boards of numerous organizations including Catalyst, The Tax Council, and the Bullis School in Potomac, Maryland. He co-chairs the Russia Foreign Investment Advisory Council and plays an active role in the World Economic Forum. Mark holds a BA from Emory University, an MBA and JD from Case Western Reserve University and a LLM from Georgetown University.