Immigrant businessman gives back to New York City

Hakki Akdeniz had a dream when he left Turkey, to someday own a pizzeria. 

The Turkish immigrant migrated to Canada in 1997 in hopes of opening that pizza shop, but things did not work out for him there.

In 2001, he moved to New York City. A friend of his offered him a place to stay, but when he arrived his friend was nowhere to be found.

Akdeniz had $240 in his pocket. He stayed in a motel for a few days but quickly ran out of money. He became homeless, forced to sleep on the streets and subways.

He spent 96 days at the Bowery Mission before finding a job at a Turkish pizzeria in Hoboken, New Jersey. There Akdeniz started as a dishwasher.

Three years later he came back into New York City. He started working at another pizzeria as a cook. He and his friend saved up about $80,000 to finally open up a pizza shop but he says his friend stole his money.

However, he never gave up and continued to work even harder.

Fast forward to 2010, his dream finally became a reality. Akdeniz opened his first Champion Pizza on the Lower East Side. Today he owns seven Champion Pizza.

The chain pizzeria has become a popular hangout for Hollywood stars. The walls of the restaurants are covered with the pictures of Hollywood celebrities like Morgan Freeman and Keanu Reeves.

"My goal is not to be rich, my goal is just to be a good person, to be a hard worker and inspire other people," says Akdeniz.

He does just that. He hasn’t forgotten that he was once homeless and twice a week he gives back.

On Mondays, Akdeniz goes back to the Bowery Mission. He stands outside with boxes of pizzas and sometimes even money.  On Wednesdays, from 9 p.m. until 11 p.m. he stands near 8th and 7th Avenues feeding those in need.