The yogurt company growing as fast as Google and Facebook
How do you get from zero to $1 billion in revenue in five years?
Google (GOOG) did it by organizing the world's information.
Facebook (FB) did it by making the world more open and connected.
A hyper-growth trajectory, you might assume, requires a world-changing idea, brilliant programmers, and a Silicon Valley address.
Not necessarily. Hamdi Ulukaya borrowed $1 million to buy an 85-year-old factory in upstate New York, came up with a new recipe for an ancient product and took on Fortune 500 giants in a consumer category that most experts figured was locked up.
Five years after selling the first case of his Greek-style yogurt, Chobani, in October 2007, Ulukaya reached $1 billion in annual revenue. This kind of growth is unheard of, particularly for a startup, in the packaged-goods business—and rare in the tech world.
But Ulukaya has landed in the league of tech's fastest-growing companies--and can claim something that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Google's Sergey Brin and Larry Page cannot: He owns 100% of his startup.
On Saturday night in Monte Carlo, Ulukaya, 41, was named Ernst &Young's World Entrepreneur of the Year, copping the grand prize in a competition that pitted him against 48 entrepreneurs whom E&Y designated tops in their own countries. Ulukaya's win was a surprise only because many of the 1, 000 attendees at the professional services firms' annual confab guessed that the judges—successful entrepreneurs from across the globe—wouldn't bestow the top award on a U.S. founder. But Ulukaya, who emigrated from Turkey to America at 22, impressed the judges and everyone else with his up-from-nothing success story.
一个周六的晚上，41岁的乌鲁卡亚从安永会计师事务所（Ernst &Young）挑选出的48名企业家中脱颖而出，在蒙特卡洛获得安永年度全球企业家奖（World Entrepreneur of the Year）。安永挑选的候选人都是在各自国家出类拔萃的企业家。乌鲁卡亚的成功之所以令人吃惊，是因为参加会议的1,000名与会者中，有许多人猜测，由来自各国的成功企业家组成的评审团不会把这个奖项授予美国创业者。而22岁从土耳其移民至美国的乌鲁卡亚凭借其手起家的成功故事打动了评审和所有人。
Over breakfast in Monte Carlo last Thursday, Ulukaya told me about growing up in a tiny village in eastern Turkey, working on his father's dairy farm and moving to the U.S. hoping to learn English and go to business school. New York City's hubbub overwhelmed him. So he moved upstate, took some classes at the Albany branch of the State University of New York, and started a wholesale feta cheese business called Euphrates.
最近在蒙特卡洛的早餐期间，乌鲁卡亚跟我讲述了他在土耳其东部一个小村子里的成长故事，他在父亲的奶牛场工作的经历，以及为了学英语和读商学院而来到美国的过程。纽约市的喧哗令他不知所措。于是他搬到了北部，在纽约州立大学（State University of New York）奥尔巴尼分校攻读了几门课程，并创办了一家名为Euphrates的公司，做羊奶酪批发生意。
Everything changed one day, a decade later, when Ulukaya opened a piece of mail that said: "Fully equipped yogurt factory for sale." Defying the advice of cautious friends and advisers, he borrowed just over $1 million from the SBA and Key Bank (KEY) to buy the Breyer's yogurt factory that plant Kraft Foods' (KFT) was shuttering. He recruited four workers from the plant and a "yogurt master" from Turkey and started work on creating the best-tasting, highest-quality yogurt.
乌鲁卡亚的人生在十年后的一天被彻底改变。那一天，他打开一封信，里面写道：“出售设备齐全的酸奶厂。”虽然朋友和顾问都提出了谨慎的建议，但他依然从SBA和Key Bank银行贷款100万美元，买下了卡夫食品公司（Kraft Foods'）正准备关闭的布雷耶酸奶厂。他从工厂里挑出四名员工，并从土耳其聘请了一名“酸奶大师”，开始创造最美味、最高品质的酸奶。
Ulukaya has no serious business training, no corporate role models ("I never worked for anyone except my father.") and no investors except for himself. So it's natural that Chobani's strategy is based on instinct—the founder-CEO's. The organization is flat—"no layers," Ulukaya says. He employs 3,000 people in New York State and Idaho and at a dairy he bought in Australia. His corporate motto: "Nothing but good." From the start, Ulukaya has allocated 10% of Chobani's after-tax profits to philanthropy. Chobani's foundation is small but growing rapidly.
A billionaire at least on paper, Ulukaya says he longs to inspire other entrepreneurs to do some version of what he's doing—that is, make real stuff in real America. "I want to help bring entrepreneurship back to small towns, or else wealth will be only on the coasts," he says.
As for the glamorization of the tech and social-media crowd, he adds, "Who says you have to be a certain way to be a cool entrepreneur?"