The founding story of KUTOA Health Bars...
The idea for KUTOA was born in 2009, after the clashing of two thought-provoking events in my life. I later decided to pursue my dream of empowering change through health, after the passing of my mother in September of 2010.
In 2007, I spent 7 months living and traveling throughout South Asia. To this day, I can say it was the most eye-opening experience of my life. I had heard of the issues that plague underdeveloped areas of the world, but there is nothing like witnessing these tragedies firsthand. The vast devastation and suffering I encountered was unforgivable and became forever imprinted in my mind. Young children sitting helpless and hungry in dirt alleyways, while their parents worked in deplorable conditions to provide for them. In Vietnam and Cambodia, I met children who went to bed hungry every night in makeshift housing that often collapsed on them. These housing collapses would often lead to their death because their bodies were too weak to pull themselves out. The people I encountered and the situations I witnessed were both tragic and unforgettable.
When I returned back home, I knew that I needed to do something about the devastation that I had left behind. The problem was I had no idea how I could help; I needed to learn more. So, during my first day back at UCLA, I went to my counselor and switched my major from economics to international development with an emphasis on the area that I had visited. I quickly took up classes that discussed the underlying causes behind the devastation I witnessed. The statistics I learned were shocking and appalling; 200 million hungry and malnourished children, one person dying every 3.6 seconds due to hunger, 1 in 4 children in underdeveloped countries underweight. What I learned only inspired me further; however, I still had no clue where to begin.
Shortly after graduating from UCLA, I had a health scare of my own that, while nerve-racking, connected the dots. After experiencing weeks of short, sudden migraines and excruciating chest pains, I reluctantly agreed to see a doctor. From the moment I walked through the door, the nurse and the doctor were in awe of my condition. I was a wreck. From my blood pressure to my platelet tests, the results were unlike anything they had ever seen in a person of my age. I couldn't believe it myself. I worked out daily, maintained a very strict diet regiment and was even training to compete in amateur bodybuilding. But physical appearance is far from everything. I was only paying attention to the caloric value of food, with little regard for what I was actually putting in my body. I was eating unnatural, heavily processed foods filled with sodium-rich preservatives. After an extensive lecture from my doctor and hours of Googling, I found that these additives and sodium-rich preservatives are linked to everything from heart complications to cancer. Those all-nighters fueled by diet energy drinks and month-long binges of preservative-filled packaged foods had finally caught up to me.
After enduring my own health scare, I had a realization. I finally understood that without our health we have nothing. It is the most fundamental necessity for living a happy and prosperous life. This in mind, I knew I needed to work on bettering not only my own health, but also the health of those who are less fortunate.
It was in that moment, the idea of KUTOA became clear, a company that empowers each individual by spreading what’s most important – our health.
However, like most, I took a good idea and put it on the back burner. I later told my mother about the idea. She was always a supportive force in my life, and I knew she would offer her words of encouragement. She did, and that was the last conversation I had with her. In her memory, I started KUTOA, a dream I know she would want me to reach for. On the first anniversary of her passing, September 27, 2011, I announced the company's launch.
KUTOA is the culmination of my life experiences thus far; a health bar that enables you to live well, give health, and empower change around the world.
That is my story. What is yours? How have your experiences shaped the way you look at health, nutrition, giving back, and compassion?
Thank you all so much for reading, sharing, supporting, and caring. The world is a better place because of people like you. Please, always remember that each of us have the power to make a difference.
Joey Grassia, Founder of KUTOA