Boston Woman With Down Syndrome Starts Cookie Business, Dreams Big

BOSTON (CBS) — From her apartment in Boston’s North End, Collette Divitto’s cookie business is taking shape.

WBZ-TV got a front-row seat as the 26-year-old made a fresh batch of her “amazing” chocolate chip cookies, dipped in cinnamon. Don’t even try to find out the recipe.

“It’s a secret,” Collette says with a smile.

Collette won't give away the secret ingredient in her "amazing" cookies.

Collette won’t give away the secret ingredient in her “amazing” cookies. (WBZ-TV)

The ingredients were perfected years ago as Collette pursued her passion for cooking. Friends and family all agreed there was something special about the cookie.

“We kept telling her, ‘This is a really good cookie. You could sell this!’’’ said her mother, Rosemary Alfredo.

When Collette, who was born with Down syndrome, tried finding a job and making some money, she kept running into barriers. Potential employers told her they liked her qualities, but said she “wasn’t the right fit.”

Collette launched her business from her Boston apartment. (WBZ-TV)

Collette launched her business from her Boston apartment. (WBZ-TV)

“It’s very upsetting to me,” Collette told WBZ. “It’s very hard to find a paying job for people like me who have special needs.”

So Collette decided it was time to become her own boss. She started a web site, made business cards, bought ingredients, and learned how to write invoices. She is already taking online delivery orders.

See Collette’s Cookies web site

Collette Divitto started her cookie business to take her career in her own hands. (WBZ-TV)

Collette Divitto started her cookie business to take her career in her own hands. (WBZ-TV)

After facing repeated rejections, Collette said she is out to prove people wrong.

“She’s never accepted her disability,” her mom said. “She’s kind of stepped into this role of trying to inspire and motivate other people.”

That attitude has already helped the entrepreneur land her first client in the neighborhood. The nearby Golden Goose Market has created a spot on the shelves for Collette to sell packages of her cookies.

Collette with Stephen DeAngelis, owner of the Golden Goose Market where her cookies are sold. (WBZ-TV)

Collette with Stephen DeAngelis, owner of the Golden Goose Market where her cookies are sold. (WBZ-TV)

“You know we just kind of fell in love with her,” said owner Stephen DeAngelis. “We get great feedback. First of all, we have to chase the employees away because they want to eat them!”

The business account in the North End was a great first step, but Collette has aspirations for her cookies to be sold in stores across the country.

“That’s my dream,” Collette said. “I want to help more people with disabilities. It would be a great feeling to hire them.”

Collette recently received a fellowship through the Institute of Community Inclusion. She’s formed her business plan and is seeking an investor who will give her company a chance to grow into a larger market.

Collettey's Cookies. (WBZ-TV)

Collettey’s Cookies. (WBZ-TV)

Regardless, Alfredo said her daughter has provided inspiration to others with special needs.

“I’m incredibly proud,” she said. “If there’s one thing or gift you can give any child, it’s that kind of strength. Because when doors have closed for her, she’s found a way around them or she’s found another door to open that might be an even greater path for her.”

Ryan Kath can be reached at rkath@cbs.com. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on Facebook.

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Comments

One Comment

  1. She should also make gluten free for people with Celiac

  2. Lisa Zander says:

    My son AJ who is 23 and autistic and schizophrenic and myself with health conditions would love to work for her company when she is ready to hire we live in Puyallup Washington and would love to hear from her. Congratulations on your cookie business. :-)

  3. Amazing mother, amazing daughter. You go girl!

  4. Inspiring. Perhaps Shark Tank could help her!!

    1. That’s exactly what I came here to say! BUT…. they’re pretty tough on food businesses, especially bakers. Apparently, they can’t make enough money to invest, but i STILL wish they would! This girl has a vision that exceeds just baking cookies!

  5. Colette, I will bake for you in the Philadelphia area if and when you want to expand. Just let me know!

  6. I live in the Boston area. Where could I buy some??

  7. robebates says:

    Facebook page is down, twitter account is gone, no phone number, no email address. After 10 days, I’m starting to worry about my order.

  8. Linda Dupass says:

    Just finish placing my order to SO CA…You go girl…keep your business small…for that small town feeling in North End of Boston!

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