Chobani founder Hamdi Ulukaya’s UAlbany Commencement Address

Chobani founder Hamdi Ulukaya’s UAlbany Commencement Address


Now ladies and gentlemen it is my pleasure to present to you Doctor Hamdi Ulukaya.
-You heard Doctor
Jones, I’m a doctor now. (CHEERS) I’ve been waiting for this for so long I’ve been making a lot of yogurt to get
here. that’s awesome President Jones, Board of Trustees, faculty and staff, (LAUGHS)
(CROWD CHEERS) What’s your flavor, man?
(LAUGHTER) I mean, the energy you guys have it cannot be just from yogurt. Families, and most amazing graduates, congratulations to you all. You know, when President Jones call me and invite me to come here, I remember like yesterday, was a couple
months ago, I was in my office and I had to, you know, punch myself to make sure it was real. I thought somebody was
playing game on me. because it remind me the days I was in this
great institution. That was 15 years ago. I was here because to learn English. Now if I’m not speaking well it’s not my
fault. (LAUGHTER) But I get by. You know I wanna.. I thought about a lot what to tell you and I thought about writing a speech but then I said you can always go to youtube and
watch inspirational speeches. There are a lot of them there, and I said you know One of the best thing I can do is tell my
own story. And I think a lot of you guys can relate
to it and maybe, and maybe, it could give you a little bit of inspiration what this life is all about. See i came from a small town east of Turkey. Even in Turkey you cannot
find it in the map. Next to Euphrates River. And when I make my way up here as 22, 23 years old young man. Spoke no English had not much money, and I was confused. I was scared. I had ton of question mark in my head. I really
didn’t know what the next day is going to be like. And
I remember walking around the campus here in
downtown. The only escape I had from my worries going down to the state… the field, watch
the soccer team playing or getting ready. I love the game when I
grew up. and I will always think, what if I can be
part of this team. Wouldn’t that be awesome. But then in the evening I would go back
to the farm that I was working with a small sandwich from a Stewart’s store and then the next day would come back. I
couldn’t afford, or neither I have time, to stay in the
college to graduate, because that was my dream, to
tell my mother I actually graduated from an American University. But I continue. The way that I grew up in the eastern Turkey in a farm and raising sheep and cows and working with my family, and when I
came to upstate New York, it felt like a home. You know it was the same landscape, same people. I felt home and later on I realize in order to get best out of yourself you have to feel home. The nature, the people, the culture, around this
region really made me comfortable later on. You know it was summarize my journey when I started Chobani, I remember the day that I walk into that
plant, and day before, I saw… I got an ad on the papers. It said fully-equipped yogurt plant for sale. I throw it to my garbage can. It’s a true story. And then twenty minutes later, I pick
that letter I said I wonder what this is all about
and I called a person and I went to visit the plant the next
day. Turns out it was a crap plant it was there for seventy to eighty years and a small community, and this was the
end of it. They were going to close it. Fifty-five
people were going to lose their job. It was the
saddest day for the community. I felt like somebody died in the community. When I left I said this price is really cheap. I should buy this place. And I called my attorney. I said I just saw a plant, it’s an awesome price.
I wanna buy it. He said, now this is the largest food company, closing the factory. Is the largest food company getting out of yogurt
category Who the hell are you? To think that you could do something out of it. If there was something they could have done it. I said you’re
right. I forgot about the idea, but the next day
I called him again. So finally he tried to convince me, he
told me you have another big problem. He said you have no money. That’s not a big problem and you could always figure it out.
August 15 2005 I had a key for this old factory and I hired five people from
that fifty-five. I remember the days I was in the
campus. I said Holy Sh… Cow. What did I do again? How am I gonna turn this around? My first
board meeting with these five factory people. And we sit around this old table, and they’re looking at me as
if I have the magic answers to these people. And one of them, Mike, he said so What’s now? I said, we gonna go to the Ace store and we’re going to buy some
white paints, and we’re going to paint the walls
outside. He said, those walls hasn’t been painted for the last fifteen years. Don’t you
have anything else to worry about? I said, but they don’t look good. We need to do something about it. He said, do you have any other plan, than painting the walls? I said, no. (LAUGHTER) But my friends, one of the best thing I’ve done in 2005, in summer of 2005, is start painting the wall. I didn’t have a lot of answers and I
didn’t have another idea but that summer we paint those walls best than ever. It’s still there. But along
the way I came up more ideas. I came up with what I’m going to do. I start searching and it remind me, this word, that in Turkish… The poet that lived in Turkey, Rumi, says “If you start walking the way, the way appears.” And the word that I said, without that
much wisdom, the ‘let’s start to paint’ was the first very step of Chobani. I don’t remember much in between In 2007 when I launched Chobani, and from 2012, we went from 5 people to 3,000 people. We went from zero sales, to billion
dollars in sales. We became number one plant… yogurt plant in the… in the country. And guess what? We made it from a small town upstate New York. When the big guys left (APPLAUSE) My friends, you’re entering the world probably same worries that I had and when I look back, the journey I had, the difficult days that I wandered through. The things that I remember the most is the lonely days I had with myself. The only force I can go to, only source I can go to, get a comfort, get ideas, and get by for the days, was my self. I didn’t care what the others told me about me. I didn’t care what they told me how crazy I was. How weak I was. How much less English I had. Do the math. Because when I close my eyes, I remember how my mother saw me. I was her son and I was the best. So every single one of you are the best when you close your eyes. When you take everybody’s judgment out and believe me, when you trust yourself, when you are
good to yourself, despite the fact, no matter what people
say, you’ll make wonders in the world. (APPLAUSE) Now I’m in front of you. Get this honor from
this amazing amazing institution. The only wish I had is I wish my mother would get to see this. And I’m sure she’s out there somewhere
watching. But when it comes to… when I come… when I look back, what matters the most is not how much
money we make, how much yogurt we sell, how many people work. It really doesn’t matter. What it matters
the most, how you did it. How you made it there. and what you’re going to be
judged with. What’s the impact you made on other human being’s life? And the impact cannot be measured with
dollars, and with numbers. The impact can be
measured but by a single measurement. Is how… how you make the other feel, really inside. A simple smile, simple help, simple hand-giving, is the matters the most. So success is really… Is not a destination. It’s a journey. And journey is made out of every day,
every minute, every second, every month, every week,
every year, and by the time it comes there, you’re
creating a song of your life. And those tunes are created every day. I look back and I say, I have a song half-Turkish half-english. But it’s a good one. I’m still learning. I’m learning from
everyone. I just learned today a lot. but I wake up every morning thinking that this is going to be the day, that I’m gonna be awesome. And I go back every night saying that I did best I could. Tomorrow is another
day. My friends, my friends, you’re entering the world…
I’m just a farmer boy, and a yogurt maker. I can tell you one thing. Life is awesome. (APPLAUSE)
And I can tell you one thing. you’re gonna surprise yourself so much walking this life. And when you look back, you just make sure that the song the you created is really by touching other people’s life, in your
community, in your country, in the world. And when I
say the country, I am home here now even though I born… I was born in far away, this is, is amazing country and New York, and upstate New York especially, is an
amazing place to live. So
when you step outside, just remembers this two line
from this yogurt maker, When you start walking the way, the way appears. Enjoy your journey. God bless you God bless you all! (APPLAUSE)

11 thoughts on “Chobani founder Hamdi Ulukaya’s UAlbany Commencement Address”

  1. DERSIM DERSIM DERSIM DERSIM DERSIM πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

  2. I m from Turkey.You can’t imagine how I’m happy ,about from your success.Thank you very much for this honer πŸ‘

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