Woman's World

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!

- — 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


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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