A local company has been feted this week for entrepreneurship and winning a national Small Business Administration award.
Chobani in New Berlin was among nine "champions of small business" honored by the SBA in Washington, D.C., as part of National Small Business Week. Other Champion Awards winners this year were from California, Idaho, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and Oklahoma.
Hamdi Ulukaya, president and chief executive officer of Chobani, was the winner in the 2012 Entrepreneurial Success category. Chobani, which was nominated by KeyBank, was chosen based on its dramatic growth in sales, employees and business size, as well as charitable contributions, a media release said.
Bernard J. Paprocki, district director of SBA office in Syracuse, said Chobani was the first business represented by his district office to win a national award. The SBA has 68 districts nationwide, he said, and the Syracuse office covers 34 counties. Chobani first won recognition at the district level, then at the regional level before securing the national honor.
Ulukaya received the district and regional awards earlier this month.
Agro Farma, the company that owns the Chobani brand, produces the yogurt at its plant in the town of Columbus.
The firm used an SBA loan to purchase a closed Kraft Foods plant, and it started operations with five employees. Today, Chobani is the top-selling yogurt in the United States, shipping 1.7 million cases of yogurt weekly to stores nationwide, a release from the SBA said.
Ulukaya was described in the release as a "remarkable and ambitious Turkish immigrant who, with financial assistance from SBA, added yogurt to his product line and today is expanding and producing jobs and dominating the U.S. Greek yogurt market."
"They really have single-handedly charged how yogurt is perceived in this country," Paprocki said. "This truly is an unbelievable success story."
In 2011, Chobani expanded operations abroad in Australia and Canada. The company now employs more than 1,200 and plans to hire an additional 400 when its Idaho facility opens later this year. The 900,000-square-foot high-efficiency facility in Twin Falls, Idaho, will be the largest yogurt plant in the country.
"The only thing holding them back is the supply of milk," Paprocki said.
Seasonal franchise sells flowers, plants
A franchise has been selling plants and flowers under a tent in the parking lot of Southside Mall in Oneonta.
The local Flower Tent sells vegetation for planting zones 4 or 5, operator Ryan Czarnecki said earlier this month. The local tent was opened a week before Easter, took a break until reopening in early May, he said, and will be open into June.
Czarnecki said selections of flowers, potted plants and vegetables varies. A goal is to sell plants grown for local zones, not "to beat" the competition, he said, and Flower Tent prices are likely to be higher than at local suppliers.
The local franchise, including another tent in Norwich, is owned by Mike Griffin of Scranton, Pa., said Czarnecki, who operates the local tent with Lindsey Carroll.
Czarnecki said hours are from about 8 or 9 a.m. to about 7 or 8 p.m., depending on customer traffic.
The first Flower Tent opened in 1992, and franchises were offered starting in 2009, the business's website said, and the company today has more than 70 franchised locations.
Denise Richardson can be reached at 432-1000 or (800) 721-1000, ext. 213, or at email@example.com.