Woman With Down’s Syndrome Turns Baking Hobby To Successful Business – Employs Other People With Disabilities
Collette DiVitto started a business called Collettey’s Cookies in 2016 in hopes of helping other people with disabilities.
Doing what you love is one of the most important aspects to a happy life. Helping others with your work along the way is the cherry on top.
Collette DiVitto, a baker and Boston resident was born with Down’s syndrome. She began baking with her family at only 4 years old.
As she grew older, baking became more than a hobby. It was an escape from all she was going through in school. “I always wanted to go to parties and sleepovers,” Collette said, “With no friends in high school, I got picked on. What I always did at home was just start baking.”
Over the years, Collette became a cookie specialist. All of her friends and family loved a sprinkle of cinnamon on top of their cookies so Collette decided to sneak it into her recipe. A cookie that would turn out to be her top-seller.
A Business Born From Necessity
At age 26, Collette graduated from ClemsonLIFE, A Clemson University program that prepares students with intellectual disabilities for independent living and competitive employment. She moved to Boston and began job hunting. “I could not find jobs,” Collette said, “I was not a ‘good fit’.” With no luck finding new work, Collette decided to start her own business.
In 2016, she launched Collettey’s Cookies. With the help of her mother, Rosemary Alfredo, Collette began carving out a business plan. They registered the business, created a logo, and made a website.
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Collette and Rosemary brought cookie samples to a local Boston market. The market owner loved them and immediately ordered 100 12-packs of cookies. It was this moment that her business took off.
“We’re buying 40-pound bags of flour, bringing them into our apartment, thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t know what’s gonna happen,’” Rosemary recalls.
Employees With Disabilities
Collettey’s Cookies went viral. She rented out a new kitchen space and began hiring employees to help her with her orders. “I was so scared at the very beginning,” DiVitto recalls. But after landing the deal, she says, she felt “amazing and confident. I never, ever felt that way in my entire life.”
In the present, Collette has sold over 550,000 cookies totalling to $1.2 million in revenue. She also started a non-profit, Collettey’s Leadership Program to help other people with disabilities find work.
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Over half of Collette’s employees are other young people with disabilities. Roughly 85% of US citizens with disabilities are unemployed. Collette found a way to turn her baking hobby into an impactful business all over the country.
“I want to set up my company all in different locations,” Collette says, “Creating more jobs for people with disabilities.”
Anyone Can Make a Difference
With her business growing by the day, Collette hopes to make a lasting impact on her community and across the country. What started as a way to cope with the social pressures in school has made Collette financially stable and able to help others with a similar upbringing.
“I want people with disabilities to feel good about themselves, and make money to live independently,” Collette said, “No matter who you are, you can make a difference in this world.”