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60Minutes Chobani

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At the time when Americans are debating whether immigration and refugees are a good thing or a bad thing for the country, it's sometimes noted that Tesla, Google, Ebay and Pepsi Cola are all either founded by or currently run by immigrants, and in one case, a refugee. It's a reminder that foreigners don't always take jobs from Americans, sometimes they create them. And of all success stories, none seems more relevant to the current debate than the tale of Hamdi Ulukaya who came here from Turkey 23 years ago on a student visa with almost no money. Today, he is a billionarire who changed Americans' taste with his Chobani yogurt, resurrected the economy in two communities, and drawn praise and some hostile fire for the way he's done it. He is a familiar fraternal presence on the factory floor where everyone calls him Hamdi. - Hey buddy, how are you doing? -Alright. He oversees every detail of product line that barely existed a dozen years ago. Greek-style yogurt, a thicker tangy version of the dairy product that Ulukaya popularized here named Chobani. It's now the best selling brand in America. What is the word, Chobani mean? It means shepherd. - Shepherd? - Sheperd. It's a very beautiful word. It represents peace. It meant a lot for me because I come from a life of shepherds and mountains and all that stuff. His family raised goats and sheep and made cheese and yogurt in a small Kurdish village in Eastern Turkey. during the summer months, they would move to the mountains to graze their flock under the stars. He says he was born on one of those trips but he doesn't know the date or the year. So how did you come not to know your birthday? Yeah, the old days, the nomads - you think you have babies in the hospitals -Midwives? - Midwives, yeah. They would register when they come back. The registration officer would put everybody in January. Since it's easy for that. 70% of our town at that time were born in January. I was born on January 20th. This reminds him of home. He came to the US at 22. A passionate idealistic student who had gotten in trouble with the Turkish authorities for writing articles sympathetic to the Kurdish rights movements. He was holding for questioning and decided that it might a good idea to leave. Did you speak any English when you came? No. Zero. - No family? - Nothing. - No friends? _Nobody. It took him a year to find his footing in upstate New York where he spent the next decade finishing his studies working on a dairy farm, and staring a modest Feta cheese business where one day, he spotted an ad. It said, "Fully equipped yogurt plant for sale". And there was a picture in front, it said 1920 on the back there are small pictures of various pictures of the plant And I called the number. The real estate agent said that a 85 year old factory was owned by Kraft Foods that decided to get out of the yogurt business. I asked for the price. and he said 700,000. You can't even get a tag for $700,000. How could this be? So, I asked the second time because I didn't want him to take the time. -You couldnt' believe it. -Yeah. I didn't want him to realize he was asking for too little. Since there was an opportunity, Hamdi set off to the small village of New Berlin, New York to have a look. There he found the last employees of the last plant in the area closing it down. I remember like yesterday, it's like this sadness in its whole place. Like somebody died, like somebody ___. - 200 jobs? - 200 jobs was gone. Former emloyees, Frank Price, Maria Wilcox and Rich Lake were among the mourners that day. Your whole livelihood was gone. You don't really know what you're going to do or where you're going. So, in comes this guy, did you think it was for real? Honestly, it was a little bit far-fetched sounding at first. There was a little bit of doubt, at least for me, there was. -You know, I mean... - It's okay. I doubted myself, too. He didn't have any money but managed to get a regional bank and a small business administration to split the risk of a million dollar loan to put Chobani in business and allowed Hamdi to hire his first 5 employees, 4 of whom were let go by Kraft. We had no idea what we were going to do next It would take them 2 years to come up with the product and figure out how to produce it. Hamdi spent most of his time in his plant except to grab 2 meals a day at a local pizzeria owned by another immigrant. Frank Bayo and his wife, Betsy. This is the only place in my early days of coming here- This is the only place you can come and connect with life again and society and go back to whatever you have to do. And I want to say something, excuse me if I interrupt you. Before Hamdi showed up in this town, I was the King. What did you think of his plan? Let's put it to you this way. I felt sorry at first, I didn't think what he was getting into yet. I mean, it took Kraft to shut it down, what the hell does this guy He's going to make it right and make it going? Almost all of the early Chobani meetings took place here along with some small celebrations. Betsy remembers one where Hamdi offered this toast. Here is to wish we can ever make a hundred thousand cases of yogurt in a week and we are not worried about the light bill anymore. I said to my husband, "They're going to feel so bad if he ruins his shirt because he's never going to sell a hundred thousand cases in a week." Actually, it took only a year . The first order of Chobani yogurt 150 cases was delivered to a Kosher grocery store on Long Island in October of 2007. No one knew if there would be another. The store manager called me and said "I don't know what you put into these cups, I cannot keep them in shop. Don't tell me what you put in there. At that moment, I knew - it was around 3 months in, this is not going to be about whether if I could sell it. It was going to be about can I make it enough. -More milk. -That? It would require more machines, bigger facilities, more milk from the surrounding dairy farms and a lot more people. Between 2008 and 2012, production of Chobani yogurt grew to as much as 2 millions cases a week. Revenues reached a billion dollars a year. The numbeer of employees shot up to 600. It's now roughly a thousand. Anybody in the community wanted to work for those years will find a job at Chobani. Anybody. You'll be hired. And if they are not working for us, they were working for the contractors doing job for us. Because my number 1 thing was I was going to hire everyone local, before I go outside Hamdi's recruiting effort included a stop at a refugee resettlement center in the city of Utica, 40 miles away where they were having trouble finding people work. I see that the language is a barrier and transportation. I said, okay, let's try some. I will hire translators, and look for a transportation. Let them come to make opportunities with us. -And it worked out? -Oh, perfectly. They are the most loyal, hard-working people. Along with everybody elses here. Right now, in our plant here, we have 19 different nationalities. 16 different translators. By 2002, the capacity of the plant in New Berlin maxed out. They were running out of people, running out of milk, and running out of room. So Hamdi decided to build a second facility. A largest yogurt plant in the world, in the town of Twin Falls, Idaho all based on a sketch, he drafted out on a napkin at Franks' pizzeria. If you look at the plan on the napkin, they are basically the similar design. The piping in this plant, if you put it together, it here to Chicago. And we built them less than a year. There were some initial growing pains. A shipping had to be recalled because of mold contamination and early production delays necessitated an emergency loan. But the business surivived and it thrived in large part because of Hamdi's competitive nature. I love innovation, I love competing. I hate my competitors. -You hate your competitors? -Of course, I do. I want to beat them up. You want to make Dannon yogurt and Yoplait suffer. Back to France. Just kidding aside. What I mean is - You cannot be in the world of business when you don't have this consciousness of me. But in a right way. Today, the Twin Falls plant has one thousand employees with above average wages and generous benefits. It pumps more than 2 billion dollars a year into the regional economy which is running close to full employment. It has allowed Hamdi to hire fellow immigrants and refugees not instead of American workers but along side them. We met 2 of them in Twin Falls. Sisters, and we agreed not to use their names or disclose the Middle Eastern country they fled because they fear reprisals from the human traffickers that separated them from their family and abandoned them as young girls on a street corner in Eastern Europe. How did you manage to get out? It took us a long time. I prefer not to talk about it because it is very painful. Would you have survived if you had stayed there? No. -You sure? -Yeah Definately I would not be sitting here alive if I didn't leave. They got here legally, they've gone through the most dangerous journey they lost their family members, they lost everything they had. And here they are. They are either going to be a part of society or they go to lose it again. The number one thing you can do is provide them with jobs. The minute they got a job is the minute they stop being a refugee. Hamdi Ulukaya insists he is not an activist just a business man. But the fact that he comes from a Muslim country, supports legal immigration and helps refugees is not universally popular in Idaho, one of the most conservative states in the country. During the past election, Chobani was attacked by a far-right media including Breitbart claiming that it brought refugees, crime and Tuberculosis to Twin Falls. none of which is true. Yet both Hamdi and the mayor of Twin Falls received death threats. One publication had a headline that said an American yogut tycoon vowed to choke you with the Muslims. Yeah. People targeted you. Yeah. It was an emotional time. People hate you for doing something right and what can you do about that? There is not much you can do. The situation cooled some what, and Hamdi enjoys the full support of Idaho's very popular and very conservative govenor, Butch Otter. I think his care about his employees whether they are refugees or the folks that were born 10 miles from where they are working I believe his advocacy for that person is no different. and there is nothing wrong with that. We traveled with Ulukaya to Europe where he is made the international refugee crisis the focal point of his personal philanthropy. He donated millions to help survivors like these in Italy. What's your name? -who risked everthing, fleeing Iraq, Syria, and Africa in hopes of finding a better life. He's also listed to support a major US corporations in the cause and pledged to give most of his fortune to charity. -They died? - Yes. And the kids died, too? Hamdi says he has not idea things would turn out the way have when he came to America 23 years ago and bought that shattered yogurt plant in upstate New York. He is now showing his gratitude. A year ago, he gave 10% of all of his equity of Chobani to his employees. It's not a gift. It's not, look how nice I am. It's recognition. It's the right thing to do. It is something that belong to them that I recognize. That's how I see it.

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Duration: 13 minutes and 19 seconds
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Language: English
License: Dotsub - Standard License
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Views: 2
Posted by: buddhakissed on Mar 26, 2018

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