Maria RUVIO: Developer of Zabalatte & the 2 In 1 Casserole Caddy and Dish Towel

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  • Tell us something about yourself, your background

I was born and raised in New York City suburb by a first-generation Italian American Family in the 1960s. They were hard-working, ambitious and very entrepreneurial in their spirit.  I inherited my love of innovation from them and find joy in creating products and ideas that offer great solutions and pleasurable lifestyles. 

One of those inspirational relatives was my great, great uncle, Frank Taormina, who was one of the co-founders of Progresso Foods.  I recall as a toddler, driving down a dirt road in Vineland, NJ, and seeing cans of tomatoes and beans loading up in the trunk of our family’s car.  Frank came to America with a recipe and a dream that became a reality for him through hard work and dedication.  That memory still follows me today as inspiration, and as a reminder that when you put your mind to a passion anything is possible.

After graduating  from St. Agnes High School, in Queens, NY, I started a career with technical training at The Wood School in NYC where I learned the fundamentals of administrative assistant skills which gave me an eye for detail that I use in everything I create.

I now live in Whitestone NY with my husband.  I am a proud parent of 2 adult children and one grandson.  I currently enjoy working at a day job as an Executive Assistant for a leading global prestigious beauty consumer product company.  I also have an entrepreneurial spirit which is the driving force behind my new product idea creations and equally enjoy my after-hours and weekend open innovation product developer career.

  • Can you list the products you have invented with a brief explanation of each:

I work on multiple ideas at the same time.  It is one of those passion-driven desires to create and commercialize. 

  1. One of the first product ideas I created is a milk beverage I named Zabalatte. Zabalatte is a spinoff and revitalization of the Italian Dessert, zabaglione.  It is also an inspiration from my childhood where my mom would make this low in sugar and high in protein milk drink for me every day before school keeping me focused and feeling full till lunchtime.  Although I have not brought Zabalatte to the market yet, my goal continues to be finding a long term mutually beneficial licensee relationship through grit and determination. 
  2. Another product idea that was inspired by my family is currently licensed to Grand Fusion Housewares, the 2 In 1 Casserole Caddy and Dish Towel. Machine Washable Kitchen Cloth that Converts to Dual Drawstring Carrier to Transport Hot or Warm Dishes and Meals From the Oven to Picnics or Backyard BBQs.
  3. A third product idea that is also currently licensed is a kitchen gadget called the Ice Cream Cone Keeper. Coming to the market soon!
    1. Builds an ice cream cone without needing an extra hand
    2. Prevents cones from cracking or tipping while you scoop
    3. Compact design clips onto any ice cream container to easily fill cones
    4. Easily stores in any drawer
  • How/Why did you start inventing? What set you off?

A few years back, my son and I were shopping at Staples for school supplies.  When we approached the cash register, there was a banner advertising a contest looking for the next new office/school supply idea. The price was $25,000 and a licensing agreement. I suggested to my son to enter an idea he had;  and as an inspiration for him to do so, I said I would also enter an idea with him.  A few weeks went by, and I received a phone call from the company sponsoring the contest, The Big Idea Group.  They informing me that my idea (a scissor with a ruler inside the blade) was one of the top 8 ideas and a finalist out of one thousand entries.  In the end, I was a runner up and was awarded a second price ($100 Staples Gift Card).  Going forward, I remained on their list as an inventor and proceeded to occasionally receive requests for ideas on contests they were running.  I eventually entered my Zabalatte idea, and again came as a top 10 finalist.  Unfortunately, the sponsor (Kraft Foods) was looking for a water-based beverage and passed on Zabalatte (milk-based beverage).  The Big Idea Group encouraged me to continue my quest in finding a licensee, and all these years later here I am doing so.  Since then, I’ve made it a personal passion to create and licensee new product ideas.

  • How did you get from idea to finished product?

Since I continually come up with multiple ideas and can realistically work effectively on one idea at a time, I keep some on a back burner.  I also remain connected to the inventors world as an InventRight alumni.  One evening, InventRight, on one of their bi-weekly webinars, was hosting the owners of an inventor friendly company called Grand Fusion Housewares.  I had been up since 6:00 am that morning and after working all day I felt exhausted.  But as I mentioned, my passion for inventing invigorates me, so I said to myself “you got to be in it to win it”!  So I joined the webinar that evening at 8:00 pm EST.  When I heard the owner say “we are looking for ideas in textiles”, I immediately stood up and yelled, “I have the perfect idea for them”.  I proceeded to email them my sell sheet and video and within 30 minutes I received a reply of interest.  Within a week, I had a signed licensing agreement.  It was such an exhilarating and unforgettable moment.  Weeks later, I sent them a prototype and the manufacturing journey began.  It is now available to purchase on Amazon, catalogs, and houseware goods stores.

  • Let us know of useful resources that helped you i.e. Books, websites, software etc

What got me started on learning about inventing was a book named, “The Mom inventor Handbook by Tamara Monosoff, a gift from my son.  As my interest grew, I came across a podcast by Stephen Key and Andrew Kraus where they talked about licensing ideas and their program for inventors, InventRight.  After trying to do it on my own for a few years, I decided to join and become an InventRight student.  InventRight taught me a lifetime skill.  They taught me the steps on how to systematically maneuver through the ups and downs of achieving a successful licensing deal.  You’ve heard of the proverb, “give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, but if you teach him how to fish, you’ll feed him for a lifetime”.  Well, that’s what InventRight does for inventors looking to license product ideas.

--End of Interview-
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