Tent founder Hamdi Ulukaya joins conversation at George W. Bush Presidential Center Forum on Leadership 2021
On Thursday, April 15th, Tent founder and Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya was featured as the keynote speaker at the Leadership Forum 2021, presented by the George W. Bush Presidential Center. Ulukaya joined a conversation with the Center’s CEO, Ken Hersh, and recounted how he built one of the fastest-growing food companies in America by investing in what he calls his “competitive advantage” – Chobani’s people.
Ulukaya opened the Forum, which also featured the recipient of the George W. Bush Medal for Distinguished Leadership and former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.The conversation touched on Ulukaya’s youth growing up in a village in Eastern Turkey, his humble but formative beginnings in America as a farmworker, and the serendipitous moment he decided to bring a closed-down yogurt factory in central New York back to life. With just four original employees, Ulukaya said he immediately recognized the value of people at Chobani, and has invested in his workforce, community, and consumers ever since.
Ulukaya discussed the positive impact that hiring refugees brought to Chobani’s factories in New York and Idaho, bringing diversity, innovation, talent, and productivity to his business. This experience was the catalyst for Ulukaya to start a worldwide network of companies committed to hiring and integrating refugees: The Tent Partnership for Refugees.
“It’s so meaningful to be safe, to be in a community, and to have a job. It’s something that we take for granted,” Ulukaya said. He started Tent to mobilize other corporate leaders to incorporate refugees into their businesses.
“The minute a refugee gets a job, that’s when they stop being a refugee. It’s not just good for society and humanity, it’s good for business; the innovation, productivity and what it does to the culture of a company are amazing,” Ulukaya said.
During his visit to The Bush Center, Ulukaya met with former President George W. Bush who recently painted a series of portraits for his book Out of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants. The book features 43 portraits of remarkable people – including Ulukaya – who have come to the U.S. from 35 countries around the world, and shines a light on immigrants’ unique challenges and valuable contributions to American life. President Bush unveiled the portrait to Ulukaya during a segment on the Today Show, which can be seen here.
To view the keynote recording from the Bush Center click here.