Raised in a dairy-farming family in a small village in eastern Turkey, Ulukaya launched Chobani in 2007 with the mission and vision of making better food more accessible. In less than five years, Chobani became the No. 1–selling Greek Yogurt brand in the U.S. with more than a billion dollars in annual sales. In 2017, Chobani was named to Fortune’s ‘Change the World’ list of companies, and earlier this year it was honored with a Salute to Greatness Award by The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.
Ulukaya has always made helping people and having a positive impact on communities a priority for Chobani. From the beginning, the company has donated a portion of its profits to charitable causes, many of them in Idaho and New York where its products are made. A champion of reducing income and wealth inequality nationwide, Ulukaya advocated in support of a proposal to increase the minimum wage in New York that ultimately became law. In addition, Ulukaya implemented a groundbreaking profit-sharing program for the company’s 2,000 employees. He also took the rare step in manufacturing of instituting a six week, fully paid parental leave program for all of the company’s mothers and fathers.
In 2016, Ulukaya launched the Chobani Food Incubator to mentor and support socially responsible food entrepreneurs and further deliver on the company’s mission to provide better food for more people.
A devoted humanitarian, Ulukaya founded the Tent Partnership for Refugees to mobilize the private sector to improve the lives & livelihoods of the more than 20 million refugees around the globe. He also signed the Giving Pledge and committed the majority of his personal wealth to the cause. For these efforts, he was named an Eminent Advocate by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and received the United Nations Foundation Global Leadership Award, among other recognitions. Ulukaya was also named one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People in the World for his work on the refugee crisis and his innovative approach to business.
Ulukaya sits on the board of the Pathfinder Village and The American Turkish Council. Most recently, Ulukaya became a member of the B Team, a collective of global leaders working to inspire dialogue and business action for a fairer, greener and more human economy. A big fan of independent films and the Turkish soccer team Fenerbahce, Ulukaya lives in New Berlin, N.Y.
Aline Sara is the Co-founder and CEO of NaTakallam, a social enterprise that connects refugees and displaced persons with work opportunities in the language sector through the freelance economy. Lebanese, born and raised in New York, Aline completed her Baccalaureat at the Lycée Français in New York City and graduated in psychology from Tufts University in Boston. She then moved to Beirut and worked in conflict resolution and human rights before transitioning into journalism, focusing on human and women’s rights and wider socio-political affairs before, during and after the Arab Uprisings. In 2012, Aline returned to New York for her masters in International Affairs at Columbia University. She then worked as an international election observer in Tunisia, Guyana and Haiti while continuing to write as a freelancer on the side. In 2015, in light of the challenging work situation for the million+ Syrian refugees in Lebanon, and while searching for ways to practice her own Arabic skills, Aline came up with the idea for NaTakallam –to hire refugees as online tutors-- which has grown into a larger social enterprise working in multiple languages and communities. To date, the venture, which is disrupting the way we typically think of humanitarianism, has provided over half a million dollars in cash to displaced people worldwide. Besides income to refugees on the one hand and a service to students and clients on the other, NaTakallam helps foster intercultural exchange and raise awareness around the daily challenges of fleeing conflict zones, notably through its academic partnerships with schools and universities (including Columbia, Duke, GW, Tufts, Yale and more)
Mr. Ulukaya is a Turkish immigrant of Kurdish descent whose life was forever changed when a stranger suggested he go to America. With $3,000, he arrived in the United States to study English before seizing the opportunity to purchase an abandoned yogurt factory in upstate New York. Under his guidance, Chobani has grown into a $1.5 billion company, and 30% of its employees are immigrants. In 2014, he was inspired to start his own foundation, Tent, to address the global refugee crisis; more than 80 global companies have since made meaningful commitments to help refugees. Through his work at Chobani and Tent, Mr. Ulukaya, the son of a shepherd, is now shepherding the journey of other immigrants and refugees. His life truly embodies the theme of the Lycée’s Gala 2019, “La vie devant soi: The Journey is Everything.”
Past Lycée Français Galas have brought together an international and influential crowd of 1,000 guests and raised more than $2.2 million in a single evening. Many consider this special occasion as the primary event of the year for the Francophone and Francophile community of New York. Past honorees have included Gad Elmaleh, Sidney Toledano, Jean Paul Gaultier, Thierry Henry, and Angélique Kidjo. Proceeds support our efforts to make our extraordinary educational program available to students in need through scholarships and enhance academic and cultural initiatives at the school.
The Lycée Français de New York is a non-profit, independent school founded in 1935 that welcomes more than 1350 students representing 68 nationalities from pre-K through 12th grade. The school’s unique program combines French and American educational principles in a bilingual, culturally immersive curriculum that inspires students to be the thinkers, innovators and leaders of their generation.