Featured image credit: RunningonNom.com
Every month Organik SEO features a business that either represents the entrepreneurial spirit on which our agency was founded (in our Entrepreneurs Series) or a company that we respect and admire for its commitment to better the world (our Companies that Care Series). This month, we’re excited to highlight a company that fits both descriptions, NuttZo. NuttZo’s founder and president, Danielle Dietz-LiVolsi spoke with me earlier this month to divulge the delicious and heartwarming story of how NuttZo was founded.
Great Inspiration Can Arise From Challenging Situations
SK: What inspired you to found NuttZo?
DD-L: When my husband and I adopted our first son Greg from the Ukraine (he’s now 17) he was vitamin-deprived and didn’t like to eat. You would never know it today because he’s such a big eater! When he did eat, he ate so slowly and chewed and chewed and chewed (he was used to porridge). He was so malnourished it was like he didn’t realize he was hungry. So I tried to be creative in the kitchen. I love health and nutrition, but I know food has to taste good or you’re not going to eat it. He wouldn’t eat animal protein, so I thought I’d try peanuts. But he didn’t like sandwiches. I knew that if I combined peanuts, nuts and seeds I could have the nine essential amino acids [he needed for nourishment]. I also used almonds. I was making nut butter in my food processor and Greg was happily eating it on apples and bananas. But because I was making all of this myself, there were a lot of dishes. One day my husband was doing the dishes and said, “Why can’t you just buy this stuff?” But we couldn’t find something like what I was making anywhere. So that’s where it all started.
Don’t Be Afraid to Pivot
SK: When starting the business, what were the biggest challenges you faced?
DD-L: A bunch of them! It’s always a money challenge. But the biggest thing was pivoting. My idea was to come out with single serving packets [of nut butters]. I wanted to revolutionize the nut butter world [using a blend of] seven nuts and seeds. I found a co-packer in LA but their minimum was crazy. I didn’t have money yet – it’s the chicken or the egg situation. I was doing research online and saw that Justin’s (a fellow nut butter company) that started two years before me packaged nut butters in single-serving packages. I had to pivot. I try to tell young entrepreneurs the same thing: You might have a great idea, but be prepared to pivot. We ended up using 16-ounce jars, and putting them upside down to give them the uniqueness they deserve and to help with oil separation.
How to Make Your Ideas Stick – Put One Foot In Front of the Other
SK: What’s your word to the wise for someone starting a company?
DD-L: So many people have amazing ideas, but you have to see [your idea] full circle. Don’t get caught up in the ‘how.’ Put one foot in front of the other and don’t get ahead of yourself. What helped me was that for about a year I had business coaches (I still had my full-time sales job). When you have people to meet with it helps you push that nut down the road to make sure you have a plan that’s moving forward. Getting an unbiased opinion from outside sources helps immensely.
On Mentors and Finding a Good One
SK: How do you select a good mentor?
DD-L: I have a bunch of them. I do everything by recommendations. It’s pretty damn powerful. We’ve got great platforms with social media, like Facebook, that help [you connect with mentors and ask for recommendations for a good mentor]. Ask people. Pick areas that you need mentoring in. Have a few [mentors] so you don’t become annoying.
How to Ignite Passion Among Consumers
SK: What’s the best way to ignite passion among consumers for your product?
DD-L: When you’re doing Guerilla Marketing and you’re on a shoestring budget, it’s tricky. In 2011 we had Dr. Oz feature NuttZo on his show. Never think something is too unlikely to pursue. It was me, myself and I at the time and I connected with Dr. Oz just by reaching out to him in 2009. Two years later I was able to reconnect with him (without bombarding him) before he had his own show. He was coming back from summer break and [the show producers] were thinking about new items to feature. [When we spoke] in 2009 he said he loved NuttZo. Dr. Oz had just started endorsing products on his hotlist. In September 2011 he featured NuttZo as the No. 1 thing he can’t live without. Our online sales blew up.
SK: What inspires you most about NuttZo advocates?
My goal [was – and is -] to reinvent the nut butter world and make it great for people. It’s so cool to hear people go crazy about NuttZo and say, “I’m addicted!” and “I eat it by the spoonful.” We have NuttZo fanatic videos [that showcase this kind of dedication and love for NuttZo]. The stories always keep me going.
SK: What’s the best way of connecting with people to endorse your product?
DD-L: Always be genuine. You have to be able to read a room. If you’re always asking, asking, asking it’s obnoxious. Know ways to engage with people. If you see an article that reminds you of them, send it. It keeps you in front of them but it’s not as jarring.
Traits Entrepreneurs Should Have
SK: What traits should entrepreneurs possess?
DD-L: You have to find balance. As an entrepreneur, you’re starting with no money and you can’t hire a web developer or [other marketing arms to help with your business]. I hate to use the word ‘workaholic,’ because it’s not completely true, but you have to work more than you ever have and you have to do it all. You need to be a multi-tasker. I’ve met many entrepreneurs that aren‘t sales people (which is my background). But sales gives you so many learning experiences. It helps you deal with difficult people. There will always be challenges. Sales teaches you to handle difficult situations. But you shouldn’t be a car salesperson [when promoting your product]. You have to be able to sell your own stuff, but it can’t be jarring. It’s got to be smooth. (Editor’s note: Like peanut butter!).
What’s Next For NuttZo?
SK: What are some company goals for 2016?
DD-L: Brand expansion on functional snacks. I can’t divulge too much yet as we’re in the beginning stages. It will be similar to bars and snacks but functional in that it’s good for you (helpful to your joints, etc). We’re in Costco in the San Diego region. Our goal is to be in four to five Costco regions per year. We have a big trip for the nonprofit we created, Project Left Behind. We take 10 women down to Peru. Two years ago we did a moms group. This year it’s just women.
Editor’s note: Project Left Behind was created after NuttZo’s founder, Danielle and her husband Kevin met their first son, Gregory (then 3 1/2), at an orphanage in Mykolaivka, Ukraine. The couple returned to the Ukraine in 2005 and adopted their second son, Matthew. But they couldn’t shake the thought of all of the children that were left behind. Now NuttZo is the primary financial supporter of Project Left Behind. The company has donated more than $25,000 from the sale of its products over the last five years. They support four orphanages throughout the world: Wiñay Wasi – Lamay, Peru, Tender Loving Care Home (TLC) – India, Inti Wawacuna Wasi – Urubamba, Peru and Aishworya Children’s Home – Kathmandu, Nepal.
SK: Can you tell me more about Project Left Behind?
DD-L: We support four nonprofits and we bond with the kids out there. We adopted Matthew, our second son, from one of the nonprofits. Project Left Behind is all volunteers. [The children in these regions face many challenges] for example, in Peru there are high mountains, very little water and poor education. [Children have to travel] 1,400 feet up to get to school on bikes. A woman we work with was volunteering there and she found out that the children who had deformities were cast aside. She stayed in Peru to help them. NuttZo supports these children.
SK: What’s your favorite NuttZo product?
DD-L: I use a ton of Power Fuel and I bake with Power Fuel Smooth. For pancakes, I like to use the Original Peanut Smooth. When I just want a spoonful, I like Power Fuel Crunchy. Our family is divided! I’ve got one that likes Smooth Chocolate Original Peanut and Greg likes Original Peanut Crunchy.
SK: Tell us about a favorite recipe
DD-L: There are so many ways to use [NuttZo]. I throw it into smoothies and use the oil for pancakes or waffles. But my favorite all-time recipe is Gluten-Free Flax Muffins.
To learn more about NuttZo and its products, visit https://www.nuttzo.com.
To read more about NuttZo’s powerful Project Left Behind or to become involved, please visit http://www.projectleftbehind.org/