This week, yogurt just got a whole lot more interesting. Hamdi Ulukaya, founder and CEO of Chobani Greek Yogurt just made an announcement to his employees: if Chobani is ever sold or becomes a publicly traded company, he has their back. Ulukaya gave each of his full-time employees a packet outlining how he was going to do this. Based on their tenure with the company, they'd be getting shares of the company which, for many of them, will be worth a small fortune.
And here's why he did it…
Ulukaya, a Turkish immigrant, immigrated to the U.S. in 1994. In 2005, he founded Chobani Yogurt with the simple understanding that American yogurt didn't taste like it did back home. With this in mind, he got a loan from the Small Business Association and bought a dairy processing plant in upstate New York. Since then, Chobani has been named the Dairy Processor of the Year (2012) and is estimated to be worth over $3 billion.
With the company being evaluated as high as it is, the average employee could stand to make around $150,000 with their shares, something that Ulukaya is aware of. The reason he's being so generous with the company's stocks is that he feels that his employees deserve to share in the wealth that they've helped create. Ulukaya told the New York Times, “I cannot think of Chobani being built without all these people,” a point he's proven with this recent announcement.
But Ulukaya is not just being generous; his announcement tells us many other things. He's telling his customers that his yogurt is made by real people with real lives. He's inviting his employees to grow with the company that they helped build, telling them that they are important. He's setting an example that undermines corporate greed.
Ulukaya is someone who cares about making great yogurt, but this recent announcement shows us that he's someone who cares about making a great company too.