This Boss Was Once Homeless. Now He Runs a Pizza Empire in NYC

This is something 39-year-old Hakki Akdeniz knows all too well. As a young 20-something in New York City (NYC), arriving with nothing but a dream and $240, he was forced onto the streets.

He’s lived through intense hardship—sleeping on park benches, the subway, a homeless shelter, a boiler room. But, he’s now a local celebrity, with seven pizza shops, a raft of celebrity clientele, and 3.5 million Instagram followers to his name. The head of Champion Pizza has earned headlines with his enormous pizzas and spun flaming pizzas on national TV and international pizza competitions.