A Boston woman with down syndrome who started a cookie business to prove her doubters wrong is now trying to fulfill a promise she made that could change the way businesses hire.
Colletty's Cookies CEO and Founder, Collette Divitto, made a promise last year on MSNBC.
“The mission of my cookie company is to hire people with disabilities,” she said in her television interview.
Divitto says she started her business from scratch, in response to other companies refusing to give her a job, because of her disability.
Rosemary Alfredo, Divitto's mom, says her daughter probably does about two to three thousand orders a month.
While business has beeen booming at Colletty's with racks and racks of sweet success, Divitto is now focused on intentionally bringing on people like Bob Bowman and Patty Cose. Both have developmental disabilities and are her newest employees.
"They are so happy. I am so happy for them, too," she says.
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Divitto has hired 13 employees, four of whom have developmental disabilities.
A recent study shows only about 40-percent of people with disabilities are working in Massachusetts, compared to 80-percent employment for people without disabilities.
While the reasons vary, Alfredo wants to make something clear.
"I think sometimes companies are scared, they don’t know what they are getting into," she says.
Divitto is now telling other companies reluctant to hire people like Bowman and Cose, no one at her company is doing it alone. Behind this crew, there are nonprofits like Community Work Services based in Boston’s North End. Coaches and case managers like Catherine Parker help train on the job, so Bowman and Cosey don’t end up in a sink or swim situation.
"To work towards independence in their tasks," Parker says.
Divitto says the chocolate chip cookies are bringing in customers from around the world, but the people at her company are the real ingredients for her success.
Her goal is to eventually form a partnership with ice cream company Ben & Jerry's to create her own flavor and also teach a course on entrepreneurship.