Positive Vibes from the ‘Good Pizza’ Guy

by Diana Drake

All those skeptics who say the world of business and finance is cut-throat and competitive need to meet Ben Berman – and bring your appetite.

The MBA student at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, has definitely got some business blood running through his veins. This year he worked as an intern and senior product manager for Amazon and before that, he worked for nearly four years as a business analyst and consultant with Deloitte Consulting.

But possibly none of those corporate experiences has topped Ben’s latest LinkedIn entry – as the chief innovator and dough tosser behind Philadelphia’s Good Pizza.

Here’s the story: When Ben came to Wharton in 2019 to get his Master’s of Business Administration, the former traveling consultant who lived most days out of his suitcase started embracing his love of cooking, inviting friends over to his Center City Philadelphia apartment for homemade pizza.

Then, COVID hit – no more socializing.

But Ben found a way, continuing to perfect his pizzas, and lowering them down from his apartment window (with a pulley and 40 feet of string from Amazon) to his hungry friends waiting on the sidewalk below. His unique pizza delivery generated some buzz. Not long after, he began lowering free pizzas to select customers in exchange for donations to local charities. In order to be on the receiving end of a pie, you must win one of 20 spots in an Instagram lottery that Ben runs (with the help of Excel) a few times a month.  So far, Good Pizza has raised some $28,000 in donations through Instagram, “pizza drop” customers, and local businesses. Ben donates every penny, and pays for all the pizza ingredients out of his own pocket.

“I just wanted to make people smile during what is a pretty crappy year for a lot of people, and pizza was my way of doing that,” says Ben, who has worked for non-profit organizations during college and after he graduated. “It has become a platform to give back to people who really need it this year. We’ve been giving a lot of money to organizations like Philabundance, which is fighting hunger relief in Philadelphia…There has never been a more important year for people who are able to try and support organizations like that.”

“Pizza is my vehicle for doing good right now, and that’s a lot of fun. But I also get to flex my business skills.” — Ben Berman, Creator, Good Pizza

We checked in with Ben in late December to ask a few questions about his pizza-inspired philanthropy. Here’s what we found out:

Wharton Global Youth: Your model for supporting local organizations is truly unique; how did you know this would work?

Ben Berman: I had no idea it would work. But, I knew the goal was worthwhile: to make people smile and raise money for good causes. From a business standpoint, I knew I had some things going for me: an innovative delivery system (we lower pizzas out of a second story window), scarcity (we only give away pizza on a lottery basis), and good pizza!

Wharton Global Youth: Do you have a story that captures the essence of this experience and motivates you to continue your pizza-making?

Ben: Two stories come to mind. The first is from last week, when Tobias Harris and Mattise Thybulle of the Philadelphia 76ers came over to try my pizza and make a $5,000 matching donation to our cause. I had the chance to sit down with them (over pizza, of course) and talk about their charitable giving in the community and tell my story as well. The other story is really a series of moments: it’s the people who stop on the street when they see me dropping a pizza out of the window and ask what’s going on. Moments later, I get a notification on my phone: they’ve started to follow us and have made a donation to our cause. That’s really incredible to me, and it makes me smile every single time.

Wharton Global Youth: What is the greatest lesson you’ve taken away from Good Pizza ?

Ben: I’ve gained a new optimism towards strangers’ willingness to support a good cause. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been overwhelmed with incredibly kind, generous offers of support from folks I’ve never met and will likely never meet: donations to the cause, kind words of encouragement, even local restaurants offering me to let them use their ovens. I’m taking away new optimism towards community and partnerships.

Wharton Global Youth: What does making a social impact mean to you?

Ben: Social impact means finding a way to improve the lives of those around — those whom you know and don’t know — no matter how small the impact. Good Pizza started as a way just to make people smile during a difficult year. But every day I wake up and try to grow that impact a little bit more. Even the smallest positive impact counts. It adds up. Find a way to make someone smile today — you’ll feel better too, and the world will be better for it.

Wharton Global Youth: How can you be a shrewd and driven business person and still make a genuine and meaningful social impact? Do your qualities as a business person complement what you are doing with Good Pizza?

Ben: A lot of what I have learned in business actually lends itself really well to a social enterprise and the creation of social impact. For example, my strategy classes really focus on a simple question: how does a company create a competitive advantage? Well, swap out “competitive advantage” for impact here. What is the unique set of skills, platforms, interests, and engagements that I can bring to the table? For me, pizza is my vehicle for doing good right now, and that’s a lot of fun. But I also get to flex my business skills as I work to develop a presence on social media, engage with lawyers and potential investors and the press, ensure that I am keeping proper accounting for Good Pizza, and develop a strategy for supporting good causes. That whole process has been a lot of fun for me.

Wharton Global Youth: What is your favorite pizza topping?

Ben: I’ve been playing with a lot of fun toppings recently — soppressata and hot honey, pulled pork and mango, apple and bacon and red onion — but my favorite is a plain cheese pizza with a little bit of fresh basil.

Ben’s favorite pie from the Good Pizza oven.

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Conversation Starters

Why do you think that the unique Good Pizza business model has caught on?

What does Ben Berman bring to his project as “the man behind the pizza?” How does he illustrate that business is truly about people?

How is social media fundamental to the impact that Good Pizza is having?

13 comments on “Positive Vibes from the ‘Good Pizza’ Guy

  1. In a digitized world accelerated by the pandemic, social media plays a crucial role in every aspect of life. Fundamentally, changing the dynamics of a business, it has become an area requiring constant ideas, discussions, and supervision. In the case of Good Pizza, the idea itself is intriguing to a spectrum of groups. Incorporating a social impact while serving wholesomeness to the people put the place on the map. In 2020, where people are essentially connected by technology, its efficient use is necessary to maximize growth prospects. Organizing lottery polls and reaching a wide audience gave a creative edge to the already buzz-creating business. Engaging the audience and attracting customers, social media contributed to the success of the polls and generating enough revenues for charity. Receiving money through Instagram, drop-in customers, and even local businesses succeeded in achieving the cause, as the Good Pizza continues to bolster its presence. Moreover, giving free pizzas in exchange of donatable charities, keeping in mind scarcity, inculcated a giving and nurturing attitude in the community during tough times. This proves to be one of the instances where social media was used for a good cause and uplifting the community rather than taking others down.

  2. After reading this article, I have seen how social media is fundamental to the impact that Good Pizza is having. This is because social media plays a crucial role in today’s day and age or in other words every aspect of life. Social media improves trust and loyalty between the customers and the good pizza guy as customers want to know that they can trust that their service and food quality will be consistent. Social media pages are a great way to establish transparency. Guests should always be encouraged to leave reviews and post pictures about their experience at your restaurant.

  3. Entrepreneurship has always been thought of as profit-driven. Yet, in an age of social division and discrimination, we have all forgotten what small acts of kindness can do. To me, the soul of entrepreneurship is more than starting a business or a company, but about being dedicated to satisfying the needs of others. As an Asian teen, I have always shied away from going out of my way and helping others due to social norms. Ben’s pizza act has reminded me that the essence of being an ‘entrepreneur’ isn’t necessarily about making money, but about social impact in the long run. As long as we are dedicated to helping others, we can all become entrepreneurs, be it big or small, or even just a few acts of kindness.
    Next time when I get pizza, I am going to be reminded of the good pizza guy and his philanthropic vibes, and muster up my courage and help others, to embrace the entrepreneur spirit. And hopefully, If I get the chance, get a bite of Ben’s delicious pizzas.

  4. “Pizza is my vehicle for doing good right now, and that’s a lot of fun.” That just seems so simple and yet so genius to me. We all love pizza, I know for a fact that most of my friends and family would join me for a gluttonous pizza night at the drop of a hat. I am also very sure that like me, they would all be very surprised that pizza had the power to raise tens of thousands of dollars for charity, all through social media, goodwill and an innovative business idea. This article on the creator of ‘Good Pizza’ Ben Berman has shown me that business does not always have to be cruel and cut-throat. Especially at a time when people are suffering, it’s important that entrepreneurs adapt and show that business is not always a ‘dog eat dog’ world. To do so, Ben used his passion for cooking and simply adapted his idea for delivering pizza to his friends in order to have a greater impact on the wider community.
    Without trying to sound cliché, the ‘Good Pizza’ guy has made my Thursday a good bit happier and I am sure that his work and his story will continue to do that for people around the world.

  5. Pizza Time! Remember when that short clip from Spiderman 2 was considered the peak of comedy? Me neither. I’ve never thought it was funny.

    But, on the topic of Spiderman, it’s hilarious how similar Ben’s actions are to the friendly neighborhood vigilante. While he may not be stopping megalomaniacs dressed as goblins, he’s arguably doing as much as Spidey. I believe that the scope of someone’s help is irrelevant. Whether it’s a few individuals or the whole of the human race, it doesn’t change the fact that someone is sacrificing their time, and sometimes even more, to assist others.

    Excuse the Spiderman reference again, but Peter Parker himself isn’t much of a heavyweight when it comes to fighting. He brands himself as “friendly neighborhood”, helping out the people in his community, while other superheroes fight villains magnitudes above a purse snatcher. Not to discredit his achievements, but there have been larger donations to charities than 28,000. Yet does that matter? Does a bigger number mean a better person? Ben certainly isn’t the hardest puncher in terms of donation raised, but who cares. What even dictates a “better” achievement? The simple fact is that the intent to assist others is all that’s necessary.

    The fact that Ben is spending his time making the pizzas and not even using the money he makes to restock the ingredients is incredible. Yet as the incredible business student he is, this seems to be a blunder: how is he able to continue this business if he’s at a net loss? This is where fame comes into play. What $20 for a pizza can’t buy is a large following in social media. Sure, as much as influencers and “clout chasing” are often ridiculed, there are major benefits in growing a fan base. Without such a large audience watching him do his pizza stunts, he couldn’t have dreamed of raising so much money. More influence allows for more growth as your fans share and spread your work around. Also, I speculate there’s a strategy behind his reputation itself which can be utilized as a way of promotion. Someone that donates all the money he earns, is definitely put in a positive light. He would gain more supporters if his image is portrayed as a kind and saint-like person. Not that I doubt he might just be like this, but it’s a clever choice. Pocketing a couple dollars for some pepperoni would ultimately offer less than your work seems even more incredible.

    The idea of this whole ordeal is rather ingenious as well. Scarcity is what drives the value of something. So, in doing such an unique way of delivery, Ben is confidently able to say that he has one of the most entertaining ways of delivery. Rather than those boring “watch your pizza get made” stations in pizza places (which is just staring at an oven), this offers an entirely new experience. Best part of it yet is if another person tries to do the same, they would probably be labeled as a fraud. As this method isn’t some revolutionary technology, and is instead branded to him. Ben is known as the guy that quite primitively lowers pizza from the second floor and anyone that tries to claim that title is sure to be less popular.

    So I volunteer with this person that makes it his duty to clean my neighborhood, Woodside, New York. We go around every Saturday, removing graffiti, adding mulch to trees, and picking up garbage. To be honest, it feels rather trivial. It’s so much easier to litter, so much easier to draw graffiti, than to reverse those effects. Yet after doing it for a couple months, it’s astonishing to see how much people appreciate these actions. Doing something so simple, like putting paint over graffiti, it brightens so many people’s days. Although progress is slow, I believe it gives people hope that the community is improving. The place they’re living in is getting cleaner ever so slightly, but there’s still joy to be had from that. The magnitude of what we do isn’t really what’s important, but rather our intentions behind them.

    Kudos to you Ben, your “Good Pizza” is truly a magnificent feat. Thank you for spreading joy during such a bleak time. Pizza is your vehicle and Jesus take the wheel, because it’s pizza time.

  6. We see that Ben is doing good things like feeding others in his unique way during the pandemic, where people have to keep their distance and not have physical contact. During the pandemic, many people were short of money to buy their daily needs. Ben does an excellent job and even sacrifices his savings for needy and hungry people. From here we must learn to be a good person, because if we do good things then we will get good rewards too. Even though the world is changing, we must not turn around or be selfish, but we must still do good things like Ben. Because of Ben’s kindfulness , he was known by many people and received many awards. He is close to everyone, even people he doesn’t know, whereas we are not close to people we don’t know and we have to get rid of bad habits like that. The world is already filled with bad and selfish people, therefore we should have more people like Ben in this world. If we do good things it makes our hearts feel calm and peaceful, because the good things we do make other people smile.

  7. I think that what Ben did is a very hearthwarming thing to do. He fed the people with his own saving and during the pandemic? That is impressive. This days you can say its rare to see people like Ben. He doesn’t expect rewards after helping others, so he just does it because he cares. we need more people like ben in this world. Why do something negative if everyone can do something positive?

  8. Ben is a very good guy. He was willing to spend his pocket money to buy ingredients for pizza and cook it for free to light up the hunger in Philadelphia. He doesn’t expects something from us. He just wants to make people smile again after a pandemic that is bad for some. He also donates to people who need it which I think is more than enough.

  9. It is nice to know that there are still good people like Ben who helps the community every now and then. Even though he paid for all those people with his own savings, he has managed to raise thousands of dollars to donate. The idea of lowering pizzas from a high place does sound pretty unique. I think some variation of this idea would be pretty cool to make in real life, like for example sending pizzas using a specialized floatie at a pool or sending pizzas with remote controlled vehicles or drones. It might not be much, but it is still a unique concept that not many people have adapted for their businesses.

  10. Ben is a genuinely great person.
    He didn’t anticipate anything and preferred to make plenty of people smile.
    He demonstrated his generosity by giving $28,000 through online platforms.
    In accordance with my recommendations, customers who purchased pizza should be able to choose their own toppings, and Ben ought to create unique holiday-themed pizzas.

  11. The Covid-19 pandemic has not only drastically affected my community but has also changed the way I view my community. When the pandemic caused communities to go under lockdown, I saw the once tight knit and lively neighborhood I lived in transform into such a quiet and lifeless patch of land.
    During the lockdown, I developed a habit of taking walks around the neighborhood. One night while walking, I noticed a house with a small bookcase on a pole and a sign next to it inviting people to take and share books for free. This small gesture reminded me of the importance of community and I felt a portion of the communal aspect of the neighborhood coming back.
    I believe Ben’s story and the anecdote I shared reveal how the pandemic has impacted businesses and the ways in which people interact with businesses, especially those that are small and local. Ben runs a small, local, and non-profit business with one goal in mind– making free delicious pizza for a select group of lucky winners to raise money for organizations. The business is not profit-driven and that shows that Ben is doing this out of passion and the goodness of his heart which I believe is an incredibly attractive business model. Additionally, the pizza is free– the few lucky winners are not required to pay for the pizza and are instead encouraged to donate their money for a good cause. Ben creates a win-win and a feel good situation for the winners of his pizza.
    I believe Ben’s decision to make his pizza such a scarce product and deliver it from his apartment window makes his business so attractive. Generally, scarce items have higher demand– consumers feel accomplished and simply happy when getting ahold of such scarce products. About three months ago, I waited in line for about four hours to purchase a pair of shorts. The shorts themselves were not revolutionary but the fact that I waited in the sun for such a long time to acquire them made me proud. A few days later, I began wearing the shorts and friends and strangers came up to me asking how I purchased them. I explained to them how I waited in line in Manhattan and I could tell they were envious- envious of the shorts and the whole experience of waiting for those shorts.
    Obviously, Ben’s method of delivering pizza to the winners is one of the primary reasons why his business is doing so well. Nobody, especially in today’s world, uses a pulley system to deliver pizza from his or her apartment window. The idea is unique and quite simply fun. Filming pizza being delivered from an apartment window is something “Instagram or Snapchat worthy” which is important to a lot of people today.
    Ben makes no profit off his business. He spends his own money on the pizza ingredients and donates all money to organizations working to fight hunger. Furthermore, I think it is incredibly wholesome that he developed this idea during the pandemic. Like the house that I walked past, Ben wanted to bring back the liveliness and the communal aspect that he and others missed in the community. With all the time and effort he puts into his business, he projects himself as a man for others and shares a message to entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs– use your passions and skills to provide a service to others. Businesses do not always have to be obsessively profit–driven.
    I first learned about Good Pizza on Instagram through Dave Portnoy, founder of Barstool Sports. Dave has over 4 million followers on Instagram and visits pizzerias regularly to rate their pizzas. Good Pizza was always hovering in the back of my head because Dave filmed the pizza being delivered from Ben’s apartment window with a rope. I was fascinated- I never saw something so unique. Social media is incredibly powerful today and has so much influence over everyone, especially younger people. Advertising on social media is easy and accessible and reaches a diverse target audience. With Good Pizza and other local and small businesses, their abilities to use social media (which Ben has already been doing through Instagram raffles) can create so many more opportunities for success.
    I strongly believe that this is just the beginning for Ben and Good Pizza. If Ben continues to use social media to highlight Good Pizza’s unique business model and the good work he is doing, Good Pizza will eventually reach the right audience which can lead to partnerships and funding. I believe a Good Pizza app will be more efficient for raffles. Users will be able to enter raffles and be notified through the app of their selection. I would also love to see winners customize their own pizzas and choose which organizations they would like to donate to through the app. I want to see Good Pizza expand throughout the country and not just be situated in Philadelphia because I, a New Jerseyian, am dying to see what the rave is about.

  12. The COVID-19 global pandemic has affected not only the professional but also personal realms of our daily lives. Business meetings, friendly outings and even house gatherings with close friends have all been restricted. As if to prove that a mere virus cannot steal the spirit of joy and love from mankind, one good-hearted, fun-loving and skillful man came up with a clever plan to change his world, one pizza at a time.

    Thank you, Ben, for your wonderful pizzas. And Thank you, Wharton, for introducing the good pizza guy to the world! Just learning about this brightened up my world.

    As fun and creative as Ben’s social enterprise may be, I believe that a few changes should be made to make his business model a bit more sustainable. Ben is paying for everything out of his own pocket. And this is respectable but certainly not sustainable. Well, there is a very easy yet noble solution to this!

    Ben should seek for volunteers or partners from his neighborhood. Criteria? A garden! It can be one’s backyard, community garden or even just a narrow patch of soil. As long as one can plant herbs, spinach tree and tomatoes, he can sign up. This way, Ben can use free ingredients planted and grown from his own neighborhood to bake delicious pizzas. To make it even better, every volunteer can install a picket in their front yard telling the remaining distance to the Good Pizza Guy’s Place! With a handful of volunteers, the whole neighborhood can create a full circle of supply chains to make our world a better place.

    On top of this, more good guys can join forces! A good hotdog guy, good fresh juice guy, good salad guy… the list can go on. It may take some time to change the world one pizza at a time, yes. But if we have a whole bunch of good everything, it’s a completely different story!

    I want to end my comment with a suggestion. I sign up to be a good bulgogi guy! My mother and I can make some mean bulgogi.

  13. I’m personally very happy with what Berman is doing. Apart from making others smile and being more entertained during the current pandemic, Berman understands the situation very well. He still wears a mask in making pizza that will be given to others to maintain health protocols. Berman also gave it away for free so people who didn’t have the money to buy pizza could still eat pizza. Berman has also spent a lot of time making pizza while he was in college and many other activities. My idea about this innovation is that we can also do what Berman did by supporting people in need. We can also help with sincere donations.

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