As a former Yoplait guy, I find it a bit strange to have such a liking for someone who beat the snot out of us.

Hamdi Ulukaya, founder and CEO of Chobani yogurt, did just that – to upstart peers like Fage and industry giants like my erstwhile employer and Dannon alike. Earlier this year Chobani became America’s biggest single yogurt brand, just twelve years after they delivered their first product.

I was in the thick of the battle when it got real. I spent time in Iceland to learn how to make skyr, their version of Greek yogurt, and I was part of the team that put the first Yoplait Greek Yogurt on  store shelves in just six months. So I hate that we got trounced the way we did. But as someone who’s taken other executives to task for their naked contempt for a good portion of their consumers and workers, I find Ulukaya’s personal courage and commitment to his customers and employees alike to be refreshing. And as someone who knows what it takes to deliver a tough-to-make product nationally, I deeply admire how far he and his company have come in such a very short time.

Ulukaya left his native Turkey in 1994 when he was threatened by authorities after he wrote sympathetically of the plight of the Kurds.

He arrived completely alone with next to nothing, went to school, started a small feta cheese plant, then took a gamble on an opportunity to buy Kraft’s old yogurt plant in upstate New York, which was in the process of shutting down at the time. He then proceeded to develop and launch Chobani there – then managed to keep up with skyrocketing demand, which is probably the biggest, most amazing, and most unsung part of his story of all.

Ulukaya has personally developed a company focus on hiring immigrants and refugees, and founded Tent, a non-profit that aids displaced people. He’s pledged most of his fortune for that cause. Meanwhile, last year he gave 10% of his Chobani equity to his employees.

Read more about my newest hero here, here, and here.