Why Chobani’s IPO May Be a Enhance for Its Social Mission
Chobani, one of the fastest growing private food companies in the United States, announced this week that it has filed confidential documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission to go public. The yogurt brand’s social mission to help its local communities and especially refugees could be significantly strengthened by an IPO.
Chobani was founded in 2005 by Hamdi Ulukaya, who emigrated from Turkey to the USA when he was in his early twenties. With a loan from the Small Business Administration, he bought an abandoned factory in New York State to begin making Greek-style yogurt. Under his leadership, Chobani has become known as a socially conscious brand with an employee-friendly policy.
Ulukaya champions hire locally – in a variety of ways. Three years ago, more than 20 languages were spoken at the New York plant, and more than 30 percent of employees were immigrants or refugees. He told me at the time that his hiring philosophy was not political – it had everything to do with creating an inclusive corporate culture.
If you want to build a business that really welcomes people, including refugees, you have to give up that notion of “cheap labor”. This is really terrible. They are not a different group of people, they are not African or Asians or Nepalese. You are only one additional team member at a time. Let people be themselves, and when you have a cultural environment that welcomes everyone as they are, it just works.
The employees own 10 percent of the company in the form of an employee participation program (ESOP). That means an IPO has the potential to shape many millionaires, both in New York and in Twin Falls, Idaho, home of Chobani’s second major U.S. plant. (The New York Times estimates the average worker would raise $ 150,000 on a $ 3 billion IPO.) In the 2018 interview, Ulukaya attributed much of the company’s success to issuing shares to its then 2,000 employees and advised other business owners to do the same: “This is probably one of the smartest, most tactical things you can do for a company,” he said. You are faster, you are more passionate. Your people are happier. “
It typically takes more than two and a half months to run up to an IPO, which means the offering – which could be valued at $ 10 billion – could come between September and early 2022. The timing of a public offering seems random as it is a busy time to debut on the US stock exchanges. Last week, 19 newly listed companies started trading. And high-profile food companies are doing well: The oat milk manufacturer Oatly went public in May and raised $ 1.4 billion; and Impossible Foods, the maker of vegetable proteins, is expected go public before the end of the year.