Build A Great Business, Champion A Social Mission. In That Order.

+ Hakki Akdeniz, Champion Pizza


Hakki Akendiz, an immigrant who became a successful entrepreneur and lauded philanthropist, is living the American Dream. He also for years experienced the plight of living without housing. His business, Champion Pizza, gives a voice to both.

Akendiz arrived in the U.S. from Turkey over 20 years ago. He had no illusions about a gilded path, but didn’t anticipate the challenges that befell him. Akendiz slept on park benches and lived in shelters and restaurant basements, worked menial jobs and was even robbed of his life’s savings. And, yet he persevered, opening his first pizzeria in 2009 and gradually added nine more, each built with reinvested earnings.  

Amid a worsening homelessness epidemic, Akendiz has prioritized giving back as a pillar of Champion Pizza’s business model. Every week over the past eight years, Akendiz and his team have set up on West 34th Street in Manhattan where they share pizza and other food, clothing and medication to homeless people. In total, Champion Pizza has donated millions of dollars worth of pizza, but Akendiz intends to give more.

In this episode, Akendiz spoke about his remarkable journey, why he credits hard work to his success and downplays the impact of luck, why supporting a social mission starts with building a sustainable and profitable business and how business owners can most effectively support the homeless community.

In this Episode

0:43: Interview: Hakki Akdeniz, Owner, Champion PizzaAkdeniz spoke with Taste Radio editor Ray Latif about a disastrous start to life in the U.S., learning the craft of pizza making while living in a boiler room and why he forgives a former partner who stole thousands of dollars intended to open a restaurant. He also explained why his first pizzeria almost left him bankrupt, how winning a pizza competition changed the trajectory of his career and why he never wavered when opening his second location, despite assault and the threat of violence from rival owners. Later, he discussed why having a goal means having a plan and the simple strategy for helping those in need.

Also Mentioned

 Champion Pizza