Meet Collette Divitto, the 31-year-old CEO of a successful cookie company. Divitto founded her sweet company – Collettey's Cookies – after struggling to find a job after college.
Divitto – who was born with the genetic disorder Down syndrome – was bullied in high school. Nevertheless, Divitto attended and graduated Clemson University. Divitto was ready to be independent after Clemson University, but hiring managers kept saying, "It was great to meet you, Collette, but at this time we feel you are not a good fit for our company."
During tough times, the one thing that always made Collette happy was baking.
"So actually, I always loved baking, since I was 4 years old. From high school, I had been taking baking classes," Divitto told CBS News. "It was a hard time for me. I had no friends, I didn't have a social life. I got bullied, I got picked on. And that's why I had been taking baking classes."
Devitto decided to turn her passion for baking into a career.
Collette's mother – Rosemary Alfredo – taught her daughter the basics of starting and running a small business. They designed a logo, created a website, and registered the business.
Divitto's signature creation is "The Amazing Cookie" – a chocolate chip cinnamon cookie, which still remains the company's most popular flavor. Collette brought samples of her amazing cookies to a local shop in Boston – and they ordered 100 12-packs of cookies.
Alfredo recalled, "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.”
Divitto admitted she was "so scared at the very beginning," but the new venture made her feel "amazing and confident. I never, ever felt that way in my entire life."
The mother-daughter duo quickly rented a commercial kitchen and started the business for less than $20,000, so they could fulfill the fledgling company's first order.
Alfredo revealed that Collettey’s Cookies has never received outside funding despite trying. "That was our biggest challenge, people questioning [Divitto’s] abilities and the potential success of the company with her as the CEO and COO," Alfredo said.
In the first three months of business, Divitto sold 4,000 cookies. Since launching in December 2016, Collettey's Cookies have made $1.2 million in lifetime revenue, according to CNBC. Collettey's Cookies are available online, at 7-Eleven convenience stores, and at the TD Garden sports arena in Boston, Massachusetts.
Nadya Rousseau – the founder and CEO of marketing and PR firm Alter New Media – was so impressed by Collette's story that she worked for the company pro bono this year.
"I just was struck with how authentic she was, and straightforward,” Rousseau revealed. "So many people have layer upon layer in front of them and they can’t just speak their truth. She’s always speaking her truth."
Collette works six days a week, and often starts her day at 4 a.m. at her commercial kitchen.
Collettte is one smart cookie, and has branched out to be the author of two children's books and was featured on "Born for Business," a reality TV docuseries about entrepreneurs with disabilities.
Devitto understands that it can be difficult to get a job when you have a disability, so her company employs many workers who have disabilities.
"Creating more jobs for people who are disabled," Collettte said. "That’s my whole mission."
In 2018, Divitto and Alfredo launched a nonprofit called "Collettey’s Leadership Programs" – which offers workshops and mentorship services for people with and without disabilities. A portion of the proceeds from Collettey's Cookies goes to the nonprofit.
"Don't let people bring you down. Do not focus on your disabilities," Collette said. "You only need to focus on your abilities."
CEO with Down syndrome runs successful cookie company and helps people with disabilities get jobs www.youtube.com