Disability Talks: Don't Dis My Ability

Collettey's Cookies- Changing the Rules of Employement for Persons with Disabilities, One Cookie at a Time

May 28, 2021 Abilities in Motion Season 2 Episode 10
Disability Talks: Don't Dis My Ability
Collettey's Cookies- Changing the Rules of Employement for Persons with Disabilities, One Cookie at a Time
Show Notes Transcript

Collette DiVitto  graduated from Clemson University with dreams of becoming a successful baker. With a degree in life skills and a passion for cookies, Collette set out to interview after interview, only to be told she was "not a good fit".  Having Downs Syndrome, Collette knew what that really meant. So with the help of her mother and sister they created Collettey's Cookies! Listen in to hear how this young entrepreneur not only changed the rules of employment for persons with disabilities, but she hires and trains others to carve out their own destiny too.

To follow Collettey's check out her out at:
Website:  https://colletteys.com/
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/colletteyscookies/
LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/company/collettey%27s/

For more information about Abilities in Motion, visit our website at https://www.abilitiesinmotion.org/ or follow us on social media.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AbilitiesinMotionPA
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/abilitiesinmotion/

Intro:

Welcome to DisAbility Talks, a podcast produced by Abilities in Motion. I'm your host, Shelly Houser. Join us for real conversations and no nonsense. Talk from everyday people with disabilities. Living their most independent everyday lives. Tune in for the latest news surrounding disability, accessibility, and independence. Where conversations aren't dissed and stories that need to be told aren't missed. So let's talk.

Shelly:

Welcome back to DisAbility Talks. I'm your host Shelly Houser. And today's guest mixes up decadent, batches of sweet treats, and she's become a viral media sensation since her beginnings, just five years ago. Collette DiVitto is the CEO and founder of Collettey's cookies in Boston, Massachusetts who creates jobs for people with disabilities. Collette's leadership non-profit organization teaches and empowers others to employment. And she joins us here today to tell us more. Good morning, Collette. How are you?

Collette:

Good Morning to you!. I am actually doing good.

Shelly:

Are you baking today?

Collette:

I am. Yes. I actually have a cinnamon chocolate chip cookies,they are actually in the oven.

Shelly:

Those are so good!

Collette:

But actually we just took out from my oven is my oatmeal raisin cookies. Those are done now.

Shelly:

I got two dozen and I shared them and they were all gone before I went home that day. I shared them around the office.

Collette:

Oh my gosh. I bet that everyone is so hungry . They will not stop eating all of my chocolate chip cookies.

Shelly:

They are really good!

Collette:

I thought, I always- everybody have been saying that to me a lot. Like that person that eats an entire bag. And i s, and that's how the person who is eating just one cookie, and then eats the rest well after dinner, before bed, the whole bag.

Shelly:

I like the cinnamon that you put in them. That makes it very different.

Collette:

I should say this, like to tell everyone out here, but actually cinnamon is my secret ingredient. That's why I cannot say that to everyone else. Because I can really say it would be about made by love from the heart.

Shelly:

You just sprinkled that goodness in there.

Collette:

Yeah that's what people are saying to me! ( Laughter)

Shelly:

( l aughter) Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. But like that's your little secret?

Collette:

Yes. Exactly!

Shelly:

When did you start Collettey's cookies?

Collette:

Well , actually I started my own cookie company in 2016. And what made you want to start your own cookie company? No one would hire me because of me who actually has um , a disability. But that's why I really want to have my own business. But I don't know exactly how to run my own business and , uh , and also become an entrepreneur. That's why I actually learn how to become as an entrepreneur and also run the business. I actually learned that f rom my mom and my family, but now I learn how to run my own company.

Shelly:

You feel confident years later?

Collette:

I do. Yeah , well actually having my own company, it makes me feel confident from people and then my mom and my sister and I , so I also do is confident. Yes. And so I feel that having my own company is Amazing! So I'm so happy. I am so lucky to have my mom is to work for me in my company. And also some of my employees. And my sister too. So all she does is the social media with my mom. So.

Shelly:

Well, she's got her own important, you know, keep keeping up with you because you're on TV and you're on YouTube and you're in magazines. And I think you're having a magazine crew or TV crew follow you around later this week?

Collette:

Yes. I haven't heard back yet from them if they can do it this Friday.

Shelly:

The one that's shot 10 episodes already?

Collette:

Yes, I do have quite good news. I 'd like to say this to everyone out there, saying that I am I am actually going to hear back soon from this TV network of my own TV show! S o

Shelly:

So they're still they're shopping it and they may have found a network that's going to pick it up then?

Collette:

Yes.

Shelly:

Well, fingers crossed.

Collette:

Yes, exactly. I know exactly .

Shelly:

That'd be awesome. Cause then you'll definitely be a household cookie name!

Collette:

Yes. Then also having more orders coming in too!

Shelly:

Absolutely! Yeah. You enjoy baking and teaching. And as, as a woman with down syndrome, you're able to juggle that plus your cookie baking business and employing persons with disabilities. How does that make you feel? And, and how do you juggle it all as an entrepreneur?

Collette:

That always being happy. I would say is to feel inspired,

Shelly:

Inspired. Okay.

Collette:

Yes I do .

Shelly:

Yeah.Your little shop has big heart and it's really grown over the last five, six years. What do you sell mostly online during COVID? And is that basically how people are getting your cookies online still ?

Collette:

It is exactly mostly, online. They can do is to buy all kinds of types of my cookies and gave to packaging. Also like for the holidays, for their Christmas , Easter, Birthdays, all of that stuff and it's actually on my website.

Shelly:

How manny cookies did you sell last year online?

Collette:

So I would say that from past, Oh my gosh . It's a lot, a lot of cookies. We made was one 1000 cookies, a week.

Shelly:

That's a lot of chips!

Collette:

It is. Yes, totally is! Yes so much cookies!.

Shelly:

That really is! (laughter).

Collette:

I always loved to bake since I was four years old. So, and I thought I 'd take a baking classes at my high s chool.

Shelly:

Did you still have , um, we used to call it Home-Ec classes, home economics classes, where we had sewing and baking and stuff as school?

Collette:

That it said yes! Except for college , college is way different than high school. I learned so much over there cooking, advertising , cooking class that I took all from college. The part of their life skills program over there, is actually is called Clemson Life.L I F E

Shelly:

Oh Clemson Life, yeah.

Collette:

Yes.

Shelly:

What was your major at Clemson university?

Collette:

Life Skills.

Shelly:

Just life skills in general.

Collette:

Yeah. I did

Shelly:

And you've done a great job because you utilize so much of those life skills in your everyday business now.

Collette:

Exactly, Yes.

Shelly:

It's , it's all about living independently because we, you know, we don't want to be told where to live and what to do. And what kind of jobs we have, because you're a great example of how no matter what our disabilities are, we can choose our path and say, okay, I'm going to be a Baker or I'm going to be a podcaster.

Collette:

Yes, exactly. I always say, I can do it. They can do it!

Shelly:

That's right. Yeah.

Collette:

It's my fa vorite t h ing, if you say that. I love saying that! Th at i s always be me an d b e other people.

Shelly:

That's your mantra.

Collette:

Yes. Yes, it is.

Shelly:

So talking about, they tell me about how many employees you have and how you work with them to teach them.

Collette:

I had 17, employees and also two of my interns for my internship. It's actually part of my nonprofit. Since we had to get a Covid times, I have to send everyone home. Now I have none of my employees. They actually still working for me. They can do packaging, tie the bags that is for doing make and bake cookies. So as that cinnamon chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal cookie, healthy breakfast cookie, and dog treats and u h, s o peanut butter cookies too! We h ave to make them, and then chill them before I c an put them in my o ven.

Shelly:

How many cookies can you bake at one time in your oven? Do you know?

Collette:

I do. So the , so for the top and bottom oven I have. They can take five racks t hat i n m y top and the bottom of oven full of 24 cookies.

Shelly:

Right, That's a good amount. Have you tested any new cookie flavors that you're thinking about these days?

Collette:

Well actually, I did. Long time ago, I started baking a new cookie. It , Oh my God, that cookie is so good! We never stop eating them. Those are like, really, those cookies are really good. It's actually called chocolate chewy cookie. That is a dark chocolate cocoa with an espresso in the cookie.

Shelly:

That sounds like the bomb! Oh Man.

Collette:

It is.

Shelly:

Yeah. Well, I will be watching to see if it ever comes out because that sounds wonderful. Mmmm! And I think with that, we're going to take a short commercial break and we'll be back with Collettey's Cookies.

AD:

Abilities in Motion is one of Pennsylvania's premier centers for independent living existing to educate, support and promote individuals with disabilities. Our programs are focused on providing opportunities for individuals with disabilities to live independent self-determined lives. Abilities in Motion, advocates for local state and national laws that protect the rights of people with disabilities. We are proud to create innovative and sustainable solutions and set trends using multi focused approaches toward shaping national education, employment opportunities in home supports and healthcare that affects the lives of individuals with disabilities. For more information about programs and services, Abilities in Motion provides call (610) 376-0010. Or visit our website at www.Abilitiesinmotion .org .

Shelly:

Welcome back listeners. And I'm your host Shelly Houser. And we're talking to Collettey's Cookies and Collette DiVitto, CEO and founder out of Boston, Massachusetts. Collette tell us about your mission of your business and what your business means to you.

Collette:

My mission is really about if we create more and more jobs for people all different types, , I don't wanna say specific needs, I would not say that , uh , it is really about create. Um , for people , it can be all different types of disabilities. And these people who cannot have fun, fun jobs because of this. We see rejections that happens for all people. That is exactly why I know how that feels like. Because it happens of me many times! So I know that that is really hard on people like me. What I'm trying to do for them is to create more and more jobs.

Shelly:

I even have had, Well, we'll call you back. Sounds like a great fit. And then you don't hear from them.

Collette:

Exactly, Yeah. So actually it 's always been embarrassed saying, " It was great to meet you in person, but at this time they feel that we are not a good fit" and i t's really heartbreaking for everyone. I've been who really wanted a job so badly who really just wants to get paid!

Shelly:

It is.

Collette:

It's hard. W e always got m e rejections so many times. And it's really sad because they l ive on their own.

Shelly:

They just want to live independently.

Collette:

Exactly, Yes.Independently, not always live with have mom and dad.

Shelly:

Yeah. So I hear that you wrote a new book called Collette in Kindergarten and you have another book coming out? Tell us about your books.

Collette:

So I actually , um, all my books actually , sold out really quickly! There' s people out there, they love to read of my book. They read about a girl who really wants to make new friends, and also do the fun things with a f riend. But she actually wanted a friend who begged so much to her Dad and decided to have me is to come over to her house for parties and for a sleepover. An d t hen her dad says, no . So, a ll of that information is actually in my book. And also we are actually working on it. We're also working on is my se cond b o ok. I have to wait to hear ba ck f rom the person, about it. Mom, her name is actually, Rosemary. So she is the author of her own bo ok. It i s r eally about 16 tips that yo u n eed to k now. She actually dedicate that book to me of w h at s he ha ve b een doing of my entire life. In her own bo ok.

Shelly:

What's the name of that book?

Collette:

It's called Best Life Possible.

Shelly:

Okay. Best Life possible.

Collette:

Yes. And it's 16 tips,? 16 tips.Yes. My book is way different!

Shelly:

Well you are very different than your mom and that's okay. Right?

Collette:

Yes . Yes. But I think I do have a sister. Her name is Blake. I am actually going to see her soon. Her job is about events. She was actually a t Las Vegas f or, for her job. But I'm so proud of her! I am. Everyone is. So I w a s s o lucky is to have her as my sister.

Shelly:

It seems like both of you girls are extremely successful in what you do.

Collette:

We are . Yes. Yes, exactly. Yeah. Yeah. We both actually got that from our mom.

Shelly:

From Rosemary?

Collette:

Yes.

Shelly:

You told us earlier that you have two interns. Is that through your Collettey's leadership non - profit?

Collette:

It is sure . Okay. Um, so for my fellowship, that is actually part of my, nonprofit. That class is really about how to become as an entrepreneur . And , uh, so there is, is actually another class is called Pathway Independence.

Shelly:

Tell us about that.

Collette:

They. They learn about safety, cooking, opening u p, their own bank accounts, all of that stuff. So that is part of my pathway to my independence. And then also, I have been telling you guys of my two interns. So I met them upon this class at my last kitchen. It 's c alled Boot Camp. BOOT- Boot Camp? So it's like three hour workshop. So I have interns two to three , no sorry four hours at each of my workshops. I, also two diffe rent classes. Uh, one o f a b out cl a sses is really about 20 people that's in my kitchen is to learn about whipping eggs on the bottom. Also all of m y ingredients with making chocolate chips Oh, is it l ik e t ha t ? An d, um, it m a ke s my dough , i s it take f ro m tha t ? Th ere's baking too like the time and the temperature. And then h ow m any pan sheets are in the oven. Saying that I'm teaching them. There is in the ki tchen. Then online is called - All In. All In is to have all of my employees is to be happy working for me fr o m day one. Is to talk about baking and making and shipping and packagi ng, all of that stuff.

Shelly:

The backend, the backend stuff of after you've made them.

Collette:

Yes, definitely .

Shelly:

So lastly, you have a huge following on social media. You have your YouTube channel where you bake. Where , where else can our listeners find Collettey's Cookies?

Collette:

So I also do have a social media. I am on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and , LinkedIn .

Shelly:

And LinkedIn. Okay. Very good. And anything new coming up, I'd see you that you, um, applied for Shark Tank?

Collette:

Yeah, actually I did. Yes, but actually I am just hoping, I am hoping to hear from him. They're from Shark Tank is to have me to be in his TV show. It's to talk about packaging, make and bake of my cookies! But I'm hoping i f they can have me in their TV show. And also I'm going to be on a Ellen show. So I am, I am definitely going to be in her show, but don't know when that is actually happening. And also I am actually going to do, is to teach this person how to make and bake of my cookies we ha d in her own coo king sh ow.

Shelly:

Well, it seems like 2021 and 2022 are going to be extremely busy for you. Now that COVID is going away.

Collette:

Oh yeah. Oh yeah. And I said , I do have a good news. So with my TV show, I have paid us, paid us for my 1 0 episodes of my show,

Shelly:

Yes.

Collette:

U m, t hat g oing t o be on Netflix a nd their TV network. If they like to put my show on their networks. If t hey come back to Boston again, is to do a second episodes (season)of me. So, yeah. But actually I s aid, when I be a t California with my mom, we're going to pin up with him and one of my TV people to go for clicks is to go , i f i t goes, if you go meet him in person, for a first time. A nd t o talk about w hat i s t alking about w hat is happening o f my show.

Shelly:

That sounds exciting.

Collette:

It is. But it is r eally going to go out for two weeks with both of them.

shelly:

Well have fun.

Collette:

That 's California. So...yes!

Shelly:

That's exciting! That's really exciting. I wish you well.

Collette:

Thank you so much!

Shelly:

Remember all the small people that,

Collette:

I know exactly!

Shelly:

That got you here! (laughter)

Collette:

Yes. I know! And also just one last thing too also. Am hoping is to have my cinnamon chocolate chip cookies in the Ben & Jerry ice cream company!

Shelly:

Yes!

Collette:

So I am hoping on that.

Shelly:

So we'll have to watch your social media for Ben and Jerry's as well.

Collette:

Yes, exactly.

Shelly:

Well, with that, I'm going to say that that's, today's show for Collettey's Cookies and thanks to Collette Divitto for joining us and telling us all about her independent living and her cookie baking business out of Boston.

Collette:

Thanks so much, I'm so happy to be part of it .

Shelly:

Thank you so much! It was a pleasure to have you thanks. And for our listeners, please remember to hit that like and subscribe button. So you never miss an episode of DisAbility Talks.

Music:

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Outro:

Thanks for tuning in to this episode of DisAbility Talks. Want to keep the conversation going? Then visit our website at Abilities in Motion .org , or connect with us on social media. And remember don't dis my ability.