Boston woman with Down syndrome turns passion for baking into career

BOSTON -- Like any other budding entrepreneur, Collette Divitto guards her company’s proprietary information quite carefully.

“This is the recipe,” said correspondent Jim Axelrod, pointing to a clipboard.

“Yes, it is,” Collette said.

“But it’s secret, right?” Axelrod asked.

“It’s a secret,” she said.

But Collette -- born 26 years ago with Down syndrome, is not like any other budding entrepreneur.

axelrod-cookie-girl-1213-transfer.jpg

Collette packaging her cookies

CBS News

“It’s my dream actually coming true,” Collette said.

Her kitchen always made her happy. But when she kept getting rejected for jobs, she decided it was going to make her money. That’s how Collettey’s Cookies was born.

axelrod-cookie-girl-1213-transfer2.jpg

Rosemary Alfredo

CBS News

“I think that all of that rejection for her made her say I’ll show them,” said Rosemary Alfredo, her mother.

So there she was 10 days ago, selling 100 cookies per week at the Golden Goose Market, whose owner Stephen DeAngelis was the only grocer in Boston to give her shelf space.

Then Boston’s CBS station ran a story that went viral. Now she has to fill 4,000 orders from around the country. With a dozen per order, Collette has to bake 50,000 cookies.

The Commonwealth Kitchen, a non-profit business incubator, has stepped in to help her scale up. Collette has also started her own GoFundMe page to raise money for her own facility.

And Collette is now closer to her real dream.

axelrod-cookie-girl-1213-transfer3.jpg

Collette stocking her product at the Golden Goose Market

CBS News

“So your successful company will be a model for people with disabilities,” Axelrod said.

“Exactly, yes,” Collette said.

“They’ll say ‘if Collette can do it,’” Axelrod said.

“They can do it,” Collette said.

Turns out, the secret ingredient she bakes into her cookies is not such a mystery after all.

“It’s love,” she said.

“Wait a minute, is the secret ingredient you’ve been protecting so much is it love?” Axelrod asked.

“Yes it is,” Collette said. “It’s love. Always, always being love.”

Which makes both the cookies, and the special young woman baking them, about as sweet as they come.