A bit of buzz is starting to circulate about a pudding-making father-daughter duo from the South side of Chicago. Meet Lorenzo and Genesis Bencivenga, who went from the streets to grocery stores with their product. As Genesis puts it in what she wrote over a Tik Tok video: “Lil girl from the projects on the Southside of Chicago got her Southern-style Frozen Pudding in Walgreens.”
She grew up with her father in LeClaire Courts, a low-income public housing development torn down in 2010. A year later, the Bencivengas launched Lorenzo’s Frozen Pudding.
“Ups and downs. Ups and downs. But guess what? I’m in Walgreens,” she added.
Walgreens Newsroom partnered with the Bencivenga family to share their inspiring story through its “Shelf Life” series highlighting underrepresented entrepreneurs.
Lorenzo, an Army vet, cook and truck driver, and Genesis started the business mixing recipes in their kitchen. The pair’s goal was to create additional income for the family and build generational wealth.
“My father has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. He’s done things to try to create something better than what we had. We hustled hard for everything, but it was fun to be able to create stuff and go sell it,” said Genesis.
Her determination combined with her father’s ambition led to massive exposure and, by 2013, their pudding hit shelves in local stores. Business was booming and it was an exciting yet stressful time for the Bencivengas. They lacked the necessary business knowledge and access to capital to keep up with the spike in demand for their best-selling flavors: banana, strawberry and pineapple. Ultimately, the family had to pause operations. Genesis attempted to restart things on her own while her father retired.
“We weren’t selling on the street anymore because we were in about 50 stores between 2015 to 2017,” the co-founder continued. “We were handing out samples and doing demos and it caught fire just like it did before. But we couldn’t keep up with demand again.”
She added, “I knew we had a great product people wanted to buy, but we didn’t have the back-end infrastructure for manufacturing and distribution that we needed, so I had to shut it down again.”
In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, Genesis re-launched the company for a third time with support from Chicago’s Women’s Business Development Center. The organization supports local entrepreneurs and the development of businesses owned by “woman and serving all diverse business owners.”
“Genesis came to us seeking advice on how to restart her business, and the fact that she chose to do that during the height of the COVID pandemic is a real testament to her tenacity and desire to succeed,” said Cynthia Johnson, director of established business services.
Johnson also shared with her vital research on pricing, strategies, how to sustain a profit and more. She also provided Genesis with information on WBDC’S Top Shelf: High Volume Growth Insights program. It offers Black entrepreneurs opportunities to receive capital, manufacturing and distribution during an eight-week virtual training course.
Applicants must have been in business for at least two years, have an average annual sales of $50,000 or more, and be a consumer product company that sells to retailers. Since launching in 2019, nearly 100 business owners have graduated from the program.