By Martie Thompson
Tina Parks said she’s always been a fighter and a bit of a rebel. She was born prematurely and weighed only three pounds, one ounce, the oldest of three girls. Her parents moved the family from Ohio to Kentucky when she was in first grade, and that’s where she lived until moving to Jacksonville four years ago. Married and with a son at a very young age, a neighbor encouraged her to go to nursing school. “I was very shy and this took an act of courage for me,” she said. Five years of schooling and a second son later, she became a Registered Nurse and began her 20 year nursing career. She had a severe car accident when she was 17 that led to a life-long struggle with neck and spine pain as well as numbness in her arms and hands. After one of her surgeries, she had an autoimmune response that led her to clean up her diet, removing gluten, processed foods and sugar. She said she learned of monk fruit as a sweetener substitute via online research and began using it before most people had heard of it. This ultimately became the basis for Nutty Scoopz, her healthy snack company that features peanut butter dips that are minimally processed, sugar-free, and have no artificial ingredients or preservatives. Tina lives in Mandarin with her four cats.
Q: What was your favorite nursing job?
A: My first job was also my favorite. I was the head nurse at a correctional psychiatric facility. It was the most challenging and the most rewarding job. I started a walking program there kind of inadvertently. I used to take walks around the yard as a form of exercise. Eventually, some of the inmates would follow me. It ended up being therapeutic for them and it also deescalated some of their pent up frustrations.
Q: Why did you move to Jacksonville?
A: I was spending some time helping to care for my aunt as my uncle drove to Mayo Clinic for treatment. So we visited the city frequently and I fell in love with Jacksonville. I also found that my joint pain improved in the warmer climate. I moved here in November 2018 and rented a place at the beach. A year later I found the perfect little house in Mandarin. It had recently been renovated and it’s in a clean and quiet neighborhood.
Q: How did you first come up with the idea to make healthy dips?
A: By accident! I was involved in a Bible study and I needed to bring some food for the group. I had a bag of apples and some dry roasted peanuts in my kitchen and I decided to make a dip. It was so fresh and delicious and everyone loved it. I began to experiment with different flavors and eventually a friend told me I should start a business.
Q: So how did you form Nutty Scoopz?
A: I had owned my own business before — a goat milk and honey soap and lotion company and it was successful and a lot of fun. Later, I tried to start a company making kettle corn sweetened with monk fruit; this one failed. So after that, when I was considering starting Nutty Scoopz, I sought the help of SCORE and the Small Business Development Council. I still attend as many seminars and webinars as I can so I can learn more about running a successful business.
Nutty Scoopz was formed right before the pandemic lockdown. I had a lot of product and didn’t know what to do with it all, so I pivoted and turned into a subscription box company. I had boxes going to many states, including Hawaii. Now, I sell my dips at the Palm Valley Market, Second Saturday Market, and RAM. My goal is now that I have local exposure to get more into wholesale. Recently, Native Sun at the beach started selling my products.
Q: What is your relationship with Catty Shack Ranch?
A: When I first came to Jacksonville, I stumbled upon Catty Shack Ranch. It’s one of my favorite places to go. I like to give back and I’m a caregiver at heart, so I approached them about collaborating; I now donate some of my Nutty Scoopz proceeds to them plus I volunteer at their concession stand. They always need volunteers and there is so much to do. It’s very therapeutic to be there with the animals.
Photo courtesy Tina Parks