When Hamdi Ulukaya started Chobani in 2007, he’d never run a company before and didn’t have a plan. But he saw one thing that could be fixed easily: The factory walls needed a paint job. “So I bought some paint, and me and our first five employees got to work,” says Ulukaya, the company’s chairman and CEO. “It was the first and best decision I ever made. There’s something magical in the movement. Don’t sit around waiting; act.” From the Greek yogurt company’s beginning, Ulukaya has made philanthropy a priority, especially in the area of income and wealth inequality. Having hired hundreds of refugees who once struggled to find work, Ulukaya found a way to not only address a business challenge, but to also help a group of people in need. At Chobani, where he has implemented forward-thinking policies and an innovative profit-sharing program, he is known to dismiss titles and stress that every single person matters.
“Build a culture in which everyone is appreciated and respected, and everyone feels comfortable being authentic,” he says. “Not only is it the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.”