Office worker by day, true inventor by night

Maria Luisa Ruvio makes her Zabalatte drink at her Whitestone home. Photo by Connor Adams Sheets
By Connor Adams Sheets

Maria Luisa Ruvio, a Whitestone mother of two and executive assistant by day, is an innovator when she gets home, creating and trademarking a unique beverage and creating gadgets that earn recognition in national invention contests.

Although she was born to Italian immigrants and is one of a long line of entrepreneurs — one great uncle started the Progresso food company and another patented many ideas including one involving bar codes that made him millions — she has not always been the tinkering type.

In 2003, Ruvio and her son Antonio, now 26, were shopping at Staples when they saw an advertisement for a contest to create the next hot office supply product. They each submitted an entry — hers was for a pair of “scissors that rule” shears with ruler-like measurements on the blades — and a couple of months later she received a letter in the mail. She had been selected as one of 12 finalists from more then 8,000 submissions.

And that was how Ruvio, who calls herself a “mom-trepreneur,” caught the inventing bug. Ever since then she has spent a significant portion of the free time she has now that her children are adults on pitching ideas to companies, applying for trademarks and developing new, exciting products she wants to see on store shelves.

“I was always very creative, but I never really thought of it because I was raising two kids and didn’t have the time to dedicate to bringing ideas to life,” she said. “From that point on, when I wake up in the morning I have ideas, but ideas are just ideas until you bring them to life.”

One of her products, a beverage dubbed the Zabalatte and based off a popular drink in Italy with its origins in the sumptuous zabaglione Italian dessert, was first brought into Ruvio’s life by her mother, who wanted to ensure her daughter was getting a nutritious start to the day.

The drink, whose secret recipe consists of an egg, milk and other ingredients, has been brought back to life by Ruvio, who says it has enormous health benefits. She entered it in the “Idea Hunt for A.M. Commuter Beverage,” another invention contest in which she was named as a semifinalist.

After continuing to enter contests with Zabalatte, a lasagna tray stacker and several other inventions she is working on, Ruvio has moved on to promoting and pitching the products herself, and though she has been turned down about 30 times, she is currently in negotiations to have another idea licensed and manufactured. She has joined an inventors and entrepreneurs group, hired professionals and continues to tenaciously pursue her dream.

“Don’t tell me I can’t do something because as soon as you do I come back and make it stronger,” she said. “I do not get discouraged easily and I’m not giving up.”

But the dream is not just a way for her to stroke her ego, she said. The ultimate goal for her would be to help fund her children’s schooling, particularly her 22-year-old daughter Maria’s graduate school.

“I want to pay for my children’s education and that’s why I’m doing it,” she said. “I enjoy doing it, but ultimately my kids are my inspiration.”

For more information, visit zabalatte.com or e-mail info@zabalatte.com.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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