30-year-old Collette Divitto is changing how the world views people with Down syndrome, one cookie a time.
When Collette Divitto was 26-years-old, she decided to take the plunge and transform her hobby into a business. Now, four years on, she runs Collettey's, a bakery based in the city of Boston. In an interview with PEOPLE Magazine, she shared details about what her journey so far has been like. She went from being bullied in school and turned down at every single job interview to running a successful business. Her baked goodies are currently sold online and in stores across Massachusetts, California, and Connecticut. She also employs 15 people. Divitto's journey is an example of what is possible when we encourage and support each other, no matter our differences.
"I was always raised to acknowledge the person next to you and to know God created everyone differently for a reason," the baker said. "I never felt the need to tell her she's different. To me, it was just a label and we all have strengths and weaknesses." That changed in the fourth grade when she was bullied by a classmate who called her "Down syndrome." Her mom Rosemary Alfredo explained, "She asked me what that was, and I was like, 'Oh my gosh, I never had this conversation with her.' From that point forward, Collette's mission in life was to blend. I've never seen anyone work so hard to have what everyone else has and be accepted."
Soon, she was in high school, a "very dark period" in her life as she did not have many friends. Once she graduated, Divitto was accepted to Clemson University's LIFE program. This, her mom said, "changed her life. "She was going to a regular college, she was going to football games," Alfredo stated. "Anything that anybody her age was doing, that world she was stepping into." She moved to Boston after graduating from the three-year program a year early. There, she planned to get a job so she could live independently. However, every interview turned out to be a bust, and both Divitto and her mom were incredibly disappointed.
Her mom shared, "To watch Collette thrive and blossom in college to then graduate early and be ready for the world, and have the world reject her, that was such a disappointment of the human race to me. I just thought to myself, people are seeing her as a labeled individual with disabilities and they're not giving her a chance." Nonetheless, Divitto refused to give up. She began baking and eventually created the recipe for her "Amazing Cookie," a cinnamon chocolate chip cookie. Her family and friends fell absolutely in love with it. The baker said, "They could not stop giving me orders." Driven by her desire to be independent, she decided to start selling her baked goods.
In 2016, she went to a local grocery store to ask if they would sell her treats. Once they taste some samples, they could not say no. Now, Collettey's has expanded to a greater scale than Divitto had ever imagined. She employs 15 people as well as two interns, a majority of whom have varying abilities. Though starting her own business was challenging, she finds it incredibly rewarding to manage her own firm. The founder said, "My favorite part of my company is creating more jobs for people with all types of disabilities." Divitto also offered advice to others who wish to establish their own businesses: "You have to really focus on your abilities and not the disadvantages. Do not let people bring you down and do not give up on your careers and dreams because when one door closes, another door opens."