Cookie company owner with Down Syndrome helps others with disabilities
Collette Divitto, the 31-year-old CEO and business owner of Collettey’s Cookies, wants to help people with disabilities find steady and meaningful jobs. She knows all too well the challenges that come with finding a job as a person with a disability. Divitto, who has Down Syndrome, had doors to opportunity closed in her face too many times.
“It was sad and it was hard,” Divitto told People in 2020. “To me, it felt like they didn’t like me at all because of who I am. No one would hire me so I decided to open my own business.”
So, at the age of 26, after finishing Clemson University’s LIFE program but suffering years of countless rejections from potential workplaces, she transformed her favorite hobby into a business. Collettey’s Cookies has sold more than $1 million worth of cookies since 2016, but that’s just the start for this savvy entrepreneur, whose company motto is “Changing the World One Cookie at a Time.”
She’s succeeding: in fall 2021, Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN) named her one of its DWEN Women on the rise.
— Dell Technologies Small Business (@DellSmallBiz) October 21, 2021
The one cookie that changed everything for Divitto is her self-titled “Amazing Cookie,” a recipe for a cinnamon chocolate chip cookie she developed on her own. First, her family fell in love with it and soon the recipe got a reputation among friends and other people. The orders started rolling in.
Not satisfied with selling to friends and relatives, this cookie queen went to a local grocery store to see if they wanted to carry her Amazing Cookie. They did — and things took off to the point where the hobby baker graduated to running her own cookie business. Now, anyone can order the Amazing Cookie and other flavors from the Collettey’s online store.
— Collettey's Cookies (@colletteycookie) February 13, 2022
Divitto’s work has been recognized not only for her tasty cookies but also for her efforts to hire people with disabilities at her company and beyond. According to the company’s website, Collettey’s Cookies “now employs 15 people, several with disabilities.” She says that creating more jobs for people with disabilities is her mission.
So Divitto doesn’t keep her efforts limited to her own company: She mentors and trains others as part of her nonprofit organization Collettey’s Leadership Program. This includes teaching vocational skills and setting up younger students for success as independent individuals, as well as coaching would-be entrepreneurs on real-world marketing strategies. Divitto also travels around the country to talk about the importance of hiring people with disabilities. Her ultimate goal is to work with lawmakers to help create policies that will increase job opportunities for people with disabilities.
She just started a YouTube series to get her message out and tell her story as well. The first episode of “Underestimated” debuted on March 14 to introduce the young woman and her business.
“[I want] people with disabilities to feel good about themselves, and make money to live independently,” Divitto told CNBC. “No matter who you are, you can make a difference in this world.”