While many companies have only recently jumped on the refugee support bandwagon, one company has been helping these vulnerable individuals for years. Chobani is thriving with refugees and has been doing so for many years.
Launched in 2007 by Hamdi Ulukaya, a Turkish immigrant, Chobani quickly became one of the most popular yogurt brands in the United States. It is now the top Greek yogurt brand in the country. Chobani earns over one billion dollars in sales annually. The company is valued at several billion dollars.
Chobani has humble roots, starting with less than 10 employees. Since then, it has grown to include about 2,000 employees — more than 300 of whom are refugees. Ulukaya started hiring refugees in 2008, well before support for refugees became publicly called for.
Early on, Ulukaya turned to refugee resettlement centers to build his workforce. The company provided the new employees with transportation and translators. Chobani is thriving with refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkey and several other countries.
Ulukaya attributes his empathy for refugees to his Kurdish background. The Kurds are a traditionally nomadic ethnic group that resides in Kurdistan, a region that covers parts of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Throughout history, the Kurds have endured tremendous oppression. They have attempted, without success, to establish independent states in Iran, Iraq and Turkey. As a Kurd, Ulukaya understands many of the struggles that refugees face.
He is clearly passionate about serving refugees. The CEO of Chobani is a strong proponent of not only donating money to support refugees but also of helping them rebuild their lives through employment. In 2015, he pledged to donate the majority of his personal fortune to the refugee crisis. At the same time, he started the Tent Foundation, with the mission to improve the lives of the 65 forcibly displaced persons in the world. For Ulukaya, it is not enough that Chobani is thriving with refugees; he also aims to mobilize other businesses in employing refugees. Cisco and IBM are among the companies that have committed to helping refugees.
Though the refugee crisis is the worst humanitarian crisis of our time, with more and more businesses joining together in support of refugees, there is hope that the millions of forcibly displaced persons will be able to rebuild their lives.
– Rebecca Yu