Chobani Owner Gives 10 Percent of Company to Employees

April 27, 2016 Updated: October 5, 2018

The owner of Greek yogurt brand Chobani, Hamdi Ulukaya, announced he was giving 10 percent of the multibillion dollar company to his employees.

One of Chobani’s first employees, Terry Edmonds, had tears in her eyes talking to NBC after the April 26 announcement. She said she was proud to see how the company is now, thinking about the little they started with and how hard everybody worked. She wasn’t sure how the stake in the company will affect her life.

“I’ve never been part owner of a factory,” she told

Each of the approximately 2,000 full-time workers will get shares based on how long they’ve been with the company. The company is privately owned, but it’s value could be as much as $5 billion, according to The New York Times.

At this valuation, each employee would get an average $250,000 worth of shares—though in reality newer workers will get less and veterans more.

The shares represent a value at a time the company would go public or get sold. There is no indication the company plans to do either.

“This isn’t a gift. It’s a mutual promise to work together with a shared purpose and responsibility,” Ulukaya wrote in a letter to employees.

Ulukaya, a Turkish immigrant, started Chobani in the summer of 2005 with just five employees. He spent almost 2 years crafting the product and has carved a niche in the Greek yogurt market.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Ulukaya explained how his business started. He had no formal business education, but he came from a family of yogurt and cheese makers.

When he came to the U.S. he didn’t see any yogurt on the market that was up to his standard. Then he saw a “for sale” ad for a closed Kraft food factory located upstate New York.

Ulukaya took a loan from the Small Business Administration and bought the factory—and the rest is history.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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