Hamdi Ulukaya, a Turkish immigrant of Kurdish decent, grew up on his family’s sheep and goat farm making Tulum cheese. He’s now founder and CEO of Chobani, the US-based yoghurt maker – with more than 2,000 employees and >$1.5bn revenue.
Finding ways to help refugees from war-torn countries was a mission for Ulukaya a long time before Donald Trump became POTUS and introduced his travel ban. The Chobani CEO has employed 400 refugees, created a foundation to help migrants, called on other CEOs in Davos to assist the effort, and worked with Obama on a Presidential ‘Call to Action’. More than 50 companies including Salesforce and IBM signed up.
Things got more prickly with a new resident in the White House, but Ulukaya has stood firm. Death threats and calls for a #buycott on social media were drowned out by messages of support for the CEO and promises to buy more of his greek yoghurt brand. In January 2017 he wrote an internal memo to staff, promising to help employees affected by Trump’s executive order.
For Ulukaya, the yoghurt’s not the main thing. He told Fast Company: “Yes, I built a $450 million plant and all that stuff, but the part I love the most is becoming this hub for building lives. Refugees have gone through so much, and seeing them smile and full of energy, it’s like a new world is created — while you’re making a cup of yogurt!”
Read more: Chobani/Impact