EACH WITH an amazing story to tell, judges could pick any of the 51 international finalists to be the winner of tonight’s EY World Entrepreneur of the Year awards.
That is the verdict from last year’s winner, Hamdi Ukulaya, the Kurdish immigrant who founded the Chobani yoghurt brand, one of the fastest-growing companies in history.
Speaking to an audience at Monte Carlo’s opera house, Mr Hamdi described winning as “the most honourable thing”.
He said: “What I remember most was the experience of being around the most prestigious entrepreneurs in the world, hearing their stories and making connections. It’s something that will always stay with you.”
Mr Ukulaya founded Chobani in New York State in 2005. It has since become the number-one selling Greek yoghurt brand in the US with more than $1bn in sales.
“I look and still cannot believe I managed to make it,” he said. “Common sense says you can’t do it. But if you are elevated for some reason things start happening in different ways.
“We started with a broken factory. It wasn’t only me. It was the people in the plant, the people in the community. This was our way of getting back. By fixing that factory, we all fixed ourselves.”
The UK is represented by Yorkshireman James Lambert, the chairman of R&R Ice Cream, who is competing against entrepreneurs from 50 countries.
Rebecca MacDonald, chairwoman of the judges and founder of the $3bn Just Energy Group, told The Yorkshire Post: “Everyone that’s here deserves to be here.”