Six years ago, Live Action News profiled a young businesswoman who has Down syndrome and who had turned a childhood love of baking into a self-run cookie business. After struggling to find employment post-college, Collette Divitto, then 26, founded Collettey’s Cookies, and the business quickly gained traction amongst Boston locals. Fast forward to now, and Divitto’s business employs 15 employees, many of them with disabilities themselves, and churns out thousands of cookies each week for distribution in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and California, plus shipment across the United States and Canada. According to Divitto’s personal website, Collettey’s Cookies has distributed over 550,000 cookies since 2017.
Divitto’s goal is more than simply professional success. Through her nonprofit, Collettey’s Leadership Academy, which launched in 2018, Divitto’s personally working to counter the abysmal unemployment rate nationally for people with disabilities. In 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that just under 18% of adults with disabilities were employed. But Divitto is undaunted. As she told CNBC in 2022, “Creating more jobs for people who are disabled, that’s my whole mission.”
Divitto aims to aid others with disabilities, including those with Down syndrome, in gaining trainable job skills that make them viable candidates in the real world. Through her nonprofit, she connects individuals with disabilities with resources, interview training, and mentorship to make their own dreams a reality. In a recent workshop, Divitto shared “her path to total independence, working, paying her bills, and living on her own!”
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People are taking notice. Her face was featured on a Lay’s potato chips campaign benefiting Operation Smile. PEOPLE magazine, Forbes, Fox News, and other media outlets have spotlighted her company as well as her can-do attitude and advocacy for increased employment opportunities for differently-abled individuals. She wrote her first book, Collette in Kindergarten, in 2021, and is reportedly in the process of writing another. She was featured in a 2021 Peacock series called Born for Business.
Of course, Divitto’s life has not been without its share of struggle and suffering. She wrote in a post on her personal blog that while growing up, as well as when she faced one employment rejection after another post-college, “There were a lot of tears and the why me’s. I asked my Mom so many times to please find a doctor to get this ’Down Syndrome’ out of me thinking people would then accept me and employ me. She always told me she would never want me to be any different than what I was. And to never give up my dreams or change because God had a plan for me. So after years and years of being rejected I had to keep asking, ‘God, what possibly is your plan for me?’”
Reflecting on all the doors that have opened in the past few years alone, she marveled, “I have been given recognition and awards from 13 organizations across the country in just the past 2 years, including New Englander of The Year, Women’s Leadership Forum, ABL give back award, Standing Leadership Advocate, spoken on the panel of the United Nations and more. I have spoken via Skype to 18 countries and had interpreters!”
From isolation and rejection previously, she recognizes now, “I found my true calling! I am going to help change the world’s views and misunderstandings. All those years of being set aside and now I am on a stage in front of thousands of people telling my story, explaining rejection, and the national crisis of the unemployment rate for people with disabilities, and showing the world how valuable, hardworking and ambitious someone with a labeled disability can be.”
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