A Woman With Down Syndrome Was Rejected From Every Job Because of Her Condition, and Now She’s Opened Her Own Bakery
Being persistent in life is a vital trait for achieving our goals. Even if we face many challenges along the way, believing in our skills and pursuing our ambitions will bring us happiness. Collette Divitto, the protagonist of this story, was born with Down syndrome, and despite the numerous rejections and biases she encountered as a result, she succeeded and started her own business.
She was brought up to believe she was just like everyone else.
We shouldn’t be scared of prejudices and hostility when we have a supportive and caring family to lean on. No matter her disabilities or limitations, Collette was born and taught to love herself wholeheartedly and, more importantly, to respect others. She says, “I was always raised to acknowledge the person next to you.”
Her mother, Rosemary Alfredo, has been her safe place ever since she was a baby. The woman has never made a big deal out of the disability her child was born with. On the contrary, Collette was brought up to behave and enjoy life in the same way as other young girls her age.
“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,” Rosemary explained.
A difficult time in her life
It’s only when we leave our safe family sphere to confront life and other people that we face the obstacles the world throws at us. Collette’s mother has always tried to shield her daughter, but when her little girl entered the fourth grade, she was forced to confront a very sad truth.
When a boy in her class started calling her “Down syndrome,” Collette had no clue what that was, so she asked her mother. “I was like, ’Oh my gosh, I never had this conversation with her,’” Rosemary claimed. “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.”
Unfortunately, that was the first of many times Collette had to address people’s assumptions about her condition. The young girl spent much of her time alone in middle school and high school, with few companions to support her. Collette recalled, “It was a hard time for me. I had no friends, I didn’t have a social life. I got picked on. And that’s why I had been taking baking classes.”
All of her trials, however, have only strengthened her, building the tough armor that has made her the powerful woman she is today.
She faced tons of rejection at job interviews.
Collette’s life changed for the better after high school when she attended a university in South Carolina. “She was going to a regular college, she was going to football games,” her mom claimed. “Anything that anybody her age was doing, that world she was stepping into.” Collette was finally living her life like any teenage girl would, fully enjoying who she was and the beautiful things that life had to offer.
But once she graduated and attempted to enter the job market, Collette fell back into the cycle of preconceptions of individuals who would judge and highlight her disability.
“It was sad, and it was hard for me, it felt like they didn’t like me at all because of who I am. No one would hire me,” the young girl said. The rejections she faced at job interviews added up and became more and more disappointing, but Collette learned to tackle challenges head-on by relying on her strengths.
Her mother, on the other hand, who was always there for her, recalled, “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 in the human race to me.” She continued, “I just thought to myself, people are seeing her as a labeled individual with disabilities, and they’re not giving her a chance.”
The foundation of Collettey’s Cookies
Difficulties can actually strengthen our spirit and resilience, and after encountering many ups and downs, Collette decided to pursue her dream, something she’d been chasing since she was a little child. “I always loved baking since I was 4 years old. From high school, I had been taking baking classes,” Collette said.
With the help of her mother, Rosemary, she was able to create her own business and become the CEO of Collettey’s Cookies. Collette launched the business in Boston in 2016, and it has already garnered more than $1 million in sales over the last 5 years.
It began with the creation of the “Amazing Cookie,” a cinnamon chocolate chip cookie that went on to become her signature treat. Her mother said, “Anybody who tasted this cookie was like, ’You need to sell this. This is amazing.’”
Her dream began there, she would go on to run her business and eventually show the world how brilliant she was. “You have to really focus on your abilities and not the disadvantages,” explained Collette. “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.”
She hired many people with disabilities.
Collettey’s Cookies now has 15 employees, including her mother and people with disabilities. She oversees all aspects of the business, from hiring and managing staff to packing and distributing cookies. She wishes to continue learning and progressing in her profession, and, as she observes, “Do not focus on your disabilities. You only need to focus on your abilities.”
Other than having founded her bakery, Collette also manages Collettey’s Leadership Org to offer people with disabilities help with preparing for their careers. “My favorite part of my company is creating more jobs for people with all types of disabilities,” Collette said.
She also noted that she is now proud of who she is, especially considering how far she has come since those job rejections. Then Collette remarked, “For people who do have disabilities, some want to have a job so badly.”