All the right ingredients to be a leader
By: Fred J. Maahs, Jr.
I spoke with Collette Divitto, owner of Collettey’s Cookies, and her mother, Rosemary, recently for a candid discussion about Collette, her bakery, and the relationship between them as business-owner and manager/advisor. It was an interesting, inspiring and even fun conversation. The pair frequently answered each other’s questions, teased each other, and always kept it real. I knew their relationship was good and it was close, even though Collette has “fired” her mother not once, but six times! They laughed about that one. Of course, no interview would be complete without sampling the actual product. So I went online to Colletteys.com and easily placed my order, two dozen chocolate chip cookies – without cinnamon. (More on that later.) A couple of days later, a well-packaged, beautifully-adorned bounty of cookies arrived via UPS (free shipping by the way). I had a great dinner that night but the cookies were calling me. After dinner, I treated myself to two of the most delicious, fresh, chocolate chip cookies I have ever tasted. A few days later, one dozen is gone (yes, I did share with someone) and one dozen is left. Oh, and they can be frozen if you can’t finish all of them. But why wouldn’t you finish all of them? Honestly, once you have eaten these cookies there are no excuses for “leftovers”.
Collette is a bright, caring, 30 year-old woman with a true sense of who she is and where she wants to go in life. She also has Down Syndrome, but do not have pity for her. It hasn’t stopped her from many achievements nor would she want your pity anyway. She grew up in Ridgefield, Connecticut and began her love of baking at 4 years of age but really didn’t begin serious baking until she was a few years older. After taking some baking classes in high-school, she came up with a recipe for a chocolate chip cookie with cinnamon, and it was a hit! That cookie is now referred to as “The Amazing Cookie” and is the featured cookie on Collettey’s web site.
After high-school she finished a three year LIFE program at Clemson University in just two years. It was then she decided to move to Boston because she was “sure to find work there.” But, as is the case with so many people with disabilities, the unemployment rate is more than twice that of people who do not have a disability, even though qualified and able to work, Collette was rejected by many employers. She wasn’t about to let this defeat her and decided that she would turn her passion for baking into a business and founded “Collettey’s Cookies” and her first orders were sold by a local grocery store. And, one would argue, her big break came in 2016 after a local news station did a piece on her. She hasn’t looked back since!
But, having a business that sold product wasn’t enough for Collette. It’s always been important for her to give back to the community and to make sure that she employed other people with disabilities. Today, she has 17 employees, about half of whom have some type of disability. Each day, her staff makes the dough, bakes, and packages about 140 fresh orders of cookies. Collettey’s also makes fresh, organic dog biscuits. That’s right, dog biscuits. Tasty enough for a human, but made special for canines. And, because Collette believes being employed is an opportunity that applies to everyone, she has recently hired a person who was once homeless. Collette also started a Foundation, Collettey’s Leadership. Because she feel so strongly about entrepreneurship, she felt it was necessary to help others so she travels around the country providing workshops, speeches, training, as well as leadership and empowerment sessions to people with and without disabilities. Her website has all the information you may need about her leadership programs.
As you can imagine, Collette has traveled quite a bit during her speaking engagements, but her favorite trip of all was when she spent two weeks in San Diego to visit her sister. She said they would sit on the cliffs and watch the sunset and that it was good just spending time together.
It seems, almost obviously, that Collette’s strong work ethic and drive comes from her mother. Rosemary is not only busy with her own business in construction, but took on the additional responsibility of being Collette’s manager and Board Chair of Collette’s Foundation. According to Rosemary, she “had to step in and help Collette when 60-80 emails a day with orders and questions were coming in from all around the world.”
And, if that wasn’t enough, Collette is trying to establish “franchise” opportunities for people interested to start their own Collettey’s franchise and she insists she will be on-site for the first month to train staff. (Rosemary insists Collette wants to be on-site because she must have everything dome properly and to protect the brand. Hmmm. Not a bad thing!) The true premise behind offering these business opportunities is that Collette believes in empowering people with disabilities to live more independently and being employed is a major step towards that independence.
But, why stop there? Who knew there were actually more than 24 hours in a day? Well, it would seem this dynamic duo or Rosemary and Collette found them because soon Collette will appear in a reality-type show called, “Born for Business” which will feature Collette and her busy day-to-day, real-life, goings on. Filming has completed and the show will air on a major outlet soon, and Season Two begins filming soon. When does Collette and her mom find time to sleep?
Collette does confess to having some spare time and that’s when she is able to spend time with friends having dinner and cocktails, going to concerts and sporting events, hiking, and skiing. Hard work, great time management skills, delivers a great product… And, we already know she has all the right ingredients to be a leader.
Our conversation was delightful and I do hope we stay in touch to check on the progress being made for business growth, but more importantly, to stay in touch with a new friend!
Thank you, Collette and Rosemary, for spending time with me and for sharing your story with our readers. And, don’t forget to place your orders for fabulous cookies and more at www.Colletteys.com.
For more information about Collette and Collette’s Cookies visit, https://linktr.ee/collettedivitto/