Topping Off 2020 with 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?

4 comments on “Topping Off 2020 with 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.

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