By Lillian Cox on Apr 09, 2012
CARMEL VALLEY — Life was relatively uneventful until June 2001 for Danielle Dietz-LiVolsi. Her 11-year-old daughter, Jackie, was thriving and husband, Kevin, was preparing to retire as a Navy pilot at NAS Coronado. She had a good job in radio ad sales.“We knew we weren’t going to have any more kids,” Dietz-LiVolsi said. “Once Jackie was in college we were going to get a Harley and travel.”Little did they expect that they would have an “ah- ha” moment the evening of June 8, 2001, when they sat down to watch ABC’s newsmagazine “20/20.” Tom Jarriel was delivering a follow-up report from a decade earlier about corruption and gross neglect at Romanian orphanages.
“Afterward neither of us said anything,” Dietz-LiVolsi said. “Kevin had reserves the next day. At noon he called me and said, ‘Hey, I’ve been thinking about “20/20” last night. What do you think about adopting?’”
Dietz-LiVolsi agreed. “I think we can make a difference,” she told him.
“That’s why I married you,” he replied.
The LiVolsis worked with an adoption agency in Orange County recommended by a friend. After learning that Ukraine had just opened up for adoptions, they decided to take that route because the process was faster and only required one overseas trip instead of two. In April 2002, they traveled to Ukraine and met a 3 1/2 year-old boy who was cross-eyed, with no eyeglasses, they named Gregory. In 2004, they returned from Ukraine with a younger brother for Gregory named Matthew.
Dietz-LiVolsi experienced a second epiphany in 2005 when she struggled with creative ways to provide protein to her sons who were malnourished.
“Greg had problems because all he ate in the orphanage was porridge, and he couldn’t digest fibrous foods or animal protein except eggs,” she said. “I was always racking my brain and came up with peanuts with tree nuts and flaxseed.”
The recipe she honed every day, using her food processor, was a success.
“One day, Kevin said, ‘Couldn’t you just buy this stuff?’ I answered, ‘Kevin, you can’t find this.’
It was a pivotal point: Nuttzo was born.
Today, all-organic Nuttzo is sold in three varieties including 70 percent dark chocolate.
Nuttzo is sold locally at Zinc’s Café in Solana Beach and the Village Mill Bread Company next to Jimbo’s … Naturally in Del Mar/Carmel Valley. It is also available on Amazon.com.
Sales got a big boost when Dr. Mehmet Oz endorsed it on his show as “The Secret Thing Dr. Oz Can’t Live Without.”
“It’s No. 1 on my ‘Best of the Best’ and I keep it in the pantry and in the office,” he told his television audience. “It tastes so great I eat it right out of the jar almost every day. I’m nuts about Nuttzo and here’s why. It’s high in omega-3s . . . ”
Today Dietz-LiVolsi’s efforts are concentrated on expanding distribution.
“We are in New York City, Connecticut, New Jersey and Florida,” she said. “We should be in eight of 12 Whole Food stores in the United States by the end of the year.”
Almost as soon as she found Nuttzo, Dietz-LiVolsi established the nonprofit, “Project: Left Behind” to benefit all children throughout the world who are left to grow up in orphanages. One percent of gross sales fund the project.
As for Gregory and Matthew, they are flourishing as young Americans.
Gregory is in sixth grade and is being home schooled.
“He’s super smart and scored in the 90th percentile overall in sixth grade,” Dietz-LiVolsi said, proudly. “He got 100 percent in science and 96 percent in math in the STAR testing.”
Matthew is excelling in second grade at Ashley Fall School in Del Mar as a natural athlete in baseball, swimming, basketball and tennis.
Looking back, Dietz-LiVolsi said she wouldn’t change anything “in a million years.”
“I’ll talk to anybody about starting their own business,” she said. “The hardest thing is to take that plunge. It’s not that I don’t have the same stressors. It’s just that I could never imagine not checking it out because of the ‘what ifs’ if I was older and hadn’t tried.
“I read this saying, ‘You don’t fail until you quit.’ That’s my mantra this year.”
For more information, visit gonuttzo.com.