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One Year Later: Business Booming, Entrepreneur With Down Syndrome Now Hiring Employees With Disabilities

BOSTON (CBS) - You can't blame Collette Divitto for feeling a little giddy this holiday season.

"I cannot stop smiling! I cannot stop being happy!" the 27-year-old entrepreneur with Down syndrome expressed. "Everything that's happened just blows my mind away."

One year ago, WBZ-TV first shared the story about Divitto's cookie business. Tired of job rejections and being told she "wasn't the right fit," the Boston resident decided to become her own boss.

Collette Divitto
Collette and her mom Rosemary Alfredo (WBZ-TV)

Safe to say she's now proven a lot of potential employers wrong.

"We are elated because the population is getting recognized across the world right now for their abilities," said her mother, Rosemary Alfredo.

At the time of the original WBZ-TV feature, Divitto was baking a few dozen cookies per week in her North End apartment. The owner of the nearby Golden Goose Market gave her some shelf space to sell the "amazing" cookies to customers.

Collette Divitto
Collette Divitto (WBZ-TV)

The story quickly went viral, reaching more than 25 million people via social media. Orders poured in from around the world.

Appearances on national programs like the CBS Evening News followed. Then there was the invite to the Oscars, where her cookies were included in the celebrity gift bags.

There have also been a slew of speaking engagements and awards. In October, she stood alongside Gov. Charlie Baker and received a "New Englander of the Year" honor.

Earlier this month, Divitto moved her business operation into a new kitchen space at Community Work Services in downtown Boston.

Collette Divitto
Collette Divitto in new kitchen (WBZ-TV)

The nonprofit trains people with disabilities or other barriers and empowers them to join the workforce. The idea is the organization will be able to provide Divitto with job candidates as the company expands.

"It was the perfect match," said executive director Craig Stenning. "This is one of the greatest accomplishments I've seen and she is the perfect spokesperson."

Collette Divitto
WBZ-TV's Ryan Kath and Collette Divitto (WBZ-TV)

In the past year, approximately 180,000 cookies have been baked. Divitto fields more than 100 online orders every week and is gearing up to provide bulk orders for the busy holiday party season.

However, the real reward for Divitto is offering paid positions to employees who might otherwise be overlooked. She has already started to make hires.

Collette Divitto
Collette Divitto at job interview (WBZ-TV)

"The goal of my company is to create jobs for people with disabilities," she told WBZ.

In December, the "amazing" cookies will begin showing up on the shelves at 19 Star Market and Shaw's grocery store locations around the Boston area.

The business owner is also trying to raise funds to meet the rising demand. Her hope is to hire about 20 people with disabilities.

"It's beyond words," her mother said. "She's amazing and is paving the way for a lot of people."

Ryan Kath can be reached at You can follow him on Twitter or connect on Facebook.

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