Col­lette’s dis­abil­ity made it hard for her to find a job—so she baked up her own!

Her dis­abil­ity meant that no one wanted to hire Col­lette Divitto. But she found a way to bake up her own recipe for suc­cess . . . and now she’s in­spir­ing us all!

Woman's World - - Start Your Week With A Smile - — Marti At­toun

Now it’s time to get a job!” 26-year-old Col­lette Divitto ex­cit­edly an­nounced to her mom, Rose­mary Al­fredo. Born with Down syn­drome, Co­lette had just com­pleted a pro­gram at Clem­son Univer­sity in South Car­olina.

But every time she went for an in­ter­view, de­spite the fact that it seemed it had gone well, noth­ing panned out. One in­ter­view had lasted for hours. An­other prospec­tive em­ployer had even taken Col­lette for cof­fee! But just when she would get her hopes up, they’d be dashed.

And now, as she opened her e-mail, once again Col­lette found her­self read­ing: We en­joyed meet­ing you, but we don’t think you are a good fit.

Read­ing be­tween the lines, Col­lette knew ex­actly what that meant.

“They don’t want me be­cause of my dis­abil­ity,” she sighed.

Recipe for hope

From

the time Col­lette was small, Rose­mary would tell her, “We all have strengths and weak­nesses. Fo­cus on what you can do, not what you can’t.”

As Col­lette went to school, her mom’s en­cour­ag­ing words, along with her own pos­i­tive spirit, helped her do well in her classes and make the cheer­lead­ing team.

Now that she was grown, long­ing to have the in­de­pen­dence of her own apart­ment, Col­lette con­tin­ued ap­ply­ing for jobs. But af­ter mul­ti­ple re­jec­tions, Rose­mary’s own heart was break­ing to see Col­lette grow­ing so dis­cour­aged.

Then it struck her: I’m al­ways telling Col­lette to con­cen­trate on what she’s good at. And what Col­lette was good at— great at—was bak­ing. Ever since Col­lette had taken a cook­ing class as a teenager, she’d loved to bake ev­ery­thing from brown­ies to dark choco­late molten cakes to fruit pies. Ev­ery­one’s fa­vorite was “The Amaz­ing Cookie”—a de­lec­ta­ble cin­na­mon choco­late chip cookie Col­lette had per­fected, with a crunchy bot­tom and soft, chewy mid­dle.

“You know, you could sell th­ese!” friends and fam­ily had of­ten com­mented.

So Rose­mary made a sug­ges­tion. “Maybe you re­ally could sell your cook­ies . . . ”

“I love to bake! It makes me feel happy and calm. And it gives me courage,” she said.

Ex­cited, Col­lette whipped up a batch of her Amaz­ing Cook­ies. Then they vis­ited man­ager Jesse Pow­ers at Golden Goose Mar­ket in Bos­ton, where Rose­mary of­ten shopped.

Jesse took one bite, then an­other— and de­clared that Col­lette was in busi­ness!

Over the next sev­eral days, Col­lette’s cook­ies flew off the shelves. And when a lo­cal tele­vi­sion sta­tion ran a story about the amaz­ing young en­tre­pre­neur, or­ders poured in.

“I’ve never been more busy!” Col­lette said as she trans­ferred sheet af­ter sheet of cook­ies into her mom’s oven.

When the Golden Goose Mar­ket of­fered use of their kitchen, Col­lette beamed, “Thank you!” And soon, as Col­lette’s younger sis­ter, Blake, be­gan spread­ing the word through so­cial me­dia, Col­lettey’s Cook­ies (Col­letteys. com) was get­ting as many as 1,000 or­ders a day!

De­li­cious de­ter­mi­na­tion Soon,

Col­lette was sign­ing up other su­per­mar­ket and res­tau­rant ac­counts!

But just as sat­is­fy­ing was hir­ing a staff. Re­call­ing how frus­trat­ing it had been for her to find a job, Col­lette was in­sis­tent: “I want to hire peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties.”

And that’s ex­actly what she did, post­ing dozens of jobs in ship­ping and pro­duc­tion.

To­day, af­ter only a year in busi­ness, Col­lette lives in her own apart­ment! Not only that, she op­er­ates two com­mer­cial kitchens, has sold hun­dreds of thou­sands of her Amaz­ing Cook­ies and is work­ing on what she calls her “Healthy Break­fast Cookie”—which in­cludes oats, al­monds, cran­ber­ries and honey. She’s even been in­vited to ad­dress groups around the na­tion to tell her story!

But what in­spires Col­lette most is the fan mail she re­ceives, much of which comes from oth­ers with dis­abil­i­ties.

Thank you for show­ing me I can do any­thing I set my mind to! peo­ple write.

“I al­ways knew that Col­lette was ca­pa­ble of great things,” Rose­mary says. “But by chang­ing views about what peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties can do, she’s ex­ceeded my ex­pec­ta­tions!”

“I don’t ever want any­body to give up work­ing hard on their dreams,” adds Col­lette. “No mat­ter who you are, you can make a big dif­fer­ence in this world!”

Jump, and you will find out how to un­fold your wings as you fall.” RAY BRADBURY

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