Rosa’s Pizza: Empowering people to give

A few weeks ago on an episode of Ellen I heard about the story of Mason Wartman, the owner of Rosa’s Pizza in Philly. Mason formerly worked on Wall Street but left his job to start his own pizza business. Rosa’s Pizza is a simple place, they sell slices of cheese pizza for a dollar as well as bottled beverages.

One day a customer came in and after placing an order said, “here is a dollar to buy a slice for a homeless person.” That one moment of generosity changed the course of his business. He now allows customers to pay it forward and for one dollar they are given a post-stick note to serve as payment for someone in need. Those post-stick notes are now filled with messages written by customers. When someone in need enters the business they can simply take a post-stick off the wall, order and pay with the pre-paid post-stick note. Mason says they have been able to provide 8,500 slices of pizza to people in need in the last nine months.

This story is a great example of empowering others. Often times people tell me that the word empowerment is cliche and they don’t have a clear understanding of it’s meaning. Empowerment gives people the skills, knowledge or permission to act in a way they didn’t know or believe they could act. By providing a clear and specific way to buy pizza for the homeless Mason has empowered his customers to give. The odds are good that in the past he had customers who wanted to give, who had the financial means to give but they simple didn’t know how to give. Rosa’s Pizza has empowered their customers to give.

I find this business model to be incredible simple and profoundly brilliant at the very same time. This story has inspired me to think deeply about generosity and how we can inspire and empower others to live a life of generosity.