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Hakki Akdeniz and Champion Pizza: A story of resilience

From homeless to internationally-recognized, Champion Pizza owner Hakki Akdeniz reflects on his journey to where he is today.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Hakki Akdeniz, a Turkish immigrant, began his life in the United States homeless, with no one to turn to. 

Now he’s an award-winning, internationally-recognized pizza shop owner who gives back to the communities who need it. 

Akdeniz looked back on the reaction he received once he gained traction. 

“I told them I have a second store right now I own a business, 'What? Really? How? Impossible! You were homeless!' I said yeah, well I worked, I saved money and I tell my story and in the end," said Akdeniz. "Its not about how much we have today what I have today what I achieved its all about like not giving up and believing in yourself.”

He went from sleeping on cold park benches to working his way up as an entrepreneur with a passion for quality pizza. 

“Three things are very important in restaurant business, one is you have to make sure you give customers good quality not quantity. Like I wanna make sure the crust is really good, the sauce is really good, the cheese is really good cheese, so anything you use you wanna make sure first, you love it before the customer loves it," explained Akdeniz. "And if you love it, you get the flavor right, the customer is gonna love it and it’s gonna come back to you.”

With six locations in New York, hundreds of awards, and over 28 million followers on Instagram, Hakki Akdeniz doesn’t let the fame get to him.

Furthermore, on a weekly basis, he brings pizza to homeless shelters to repay the kindness that inspired him.

“For me I don’t wanna call myself a word like famous. I want people to know me as a good person, great guy, and humble. Those 3 things are important to me I wanna be a good example for others, especially the younger generation,” explained Akdeniz.

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