(Philadelphia, PA) Walking through the streets of any city, one will witness first-hand the growing number of homeless and hungry people. They don’t ask for much, just any spare change you might have in order for them to save up for a meal. All too often people just walk by and ignore them, not realizing that the change they have in their pocket could be the deciding factor in whether that person will be able to afford a decent meal or not.
Mason Wartman, owner and founder of Rosa’s Fresh Pizza, aims to change all of that. Rosa’s sells freshly made slices of pizza for only $1 each, which makes it affordable for almost anybody. Yet, even if a homeless person can’t come up with that $1, they can still eat a fresh delicious slice from Rosa’s. How? Customers can donate a dollar or more to feed the hungry. They fill out a post-it note with a simple message on it, stick it to a board full of others, and when a homeless person comes in looking for a bite to eat they simply grab a post-it off the wall and exchange it for a slice of pizza.
Mason told Au’loni the story behind the creation of Rosa’s Fresh Pizza. After attending Babson College he landed a job working in finance in New York. He worked there for three years and said, “After three years I kind of plateaued” and “didn’t think I was learning much day to day.” This is when the idea for Rosa’s began to take form.
“I was very much impressed with dollar pizza stores that had basically proliferated throughout Manhattan. I thought that was a good business to be in and I wanted to start that business, so I came back here to Philadelphia where there weren’t any and started Rosa’s Fresh Pizza.”
He faced a number of obstacles when founding Rosa’s, laughing and saying “I didn’t know how to make pizza so that was a big one.” He also described the main one as trying to get the product right and making it consistent. “I knew theoretically that the product should be consistent but I didn’t really know how to make my product consistent,” also saying “I knew a lot about business and finance, but not so much the scruff of a business, like managing a business and people.”
Mason also stated that “Nobody tells you how to make a couple hundred identical pizza slices everyday but they tell you how important it is and of other instances of a business failing because of so and so.” The way he really solved all of these problems was through trial and error.
He also gave some advice for other ambitious entrepreneurs saying, “You have to enjoy business I think, or really enjoy the exact thing that you are doing whether it’s making pizzas, plumbing, building software or whatever it is.” Even without all the recognition that has been received, Mason said he would still be talking to customers, doing numbers of the business, feeding the hungry and talking about products and consistency. “If I didn’t like doing that or I didn’t have a passion for pizza then I wouldn’t have continued with it, but because I enjoy the business end, I have persisted and enjoyed myself quite a bit.”
Mason said that his short-term goals are to make pizza even more consistent and make the experience even more consistent for the guests in Rosa’s. In the long-term he said he would like to have three, four, maybe five establishments, if not Rosa’s, then a similar concept, “where it’s a restaurant as well as a pay-it-forward model where there is a simple item that our customers can purchase for a homeless person to eat when they walk through our doors.” He described the impact this could have saying, “If we could feed 30-40 homeless people a day with five restaurants throughout the city, that’s over a hundred people in Philadelphia every day. That’s huge.”
To date, more than 9,800 slices of pizza have been given away to the homeless in around 10 months. Rosa’s is located at 25 S. 11th St, so if you are in the Philadelphia area stop in for a fresh $1 slice or donate to help feed the homeless. If you would like to donate but can’t make it to their restaurant, you can do so through their website, www.rosasfreshpizza.com.