Reprinted from Forbes online
by Steven Aquino
Contributor, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
NBCUniversal-backed Peacock launched an original documentary series late last month called Born for Business, which premiered on August 23. The show chronicles the journeys of four entrepreneurial disabled people who are running their own small business. In a press release, Peacock describes the series as “powerful” and “[gives] viewers an insider’s look at what it takes to launch and run a thriving small business.”
One of the businesses featured in the show is Collettey’s Cookies, run by Collette Divitto. The shop offers cookies for humans (and dogs), as well as other merchandise like books and apparel. Divitto has Down syndrome, and her bakery has disabled employees. That Collettey’s Cookies prioritizes disabled people in the workforce is at the heart of Divitto’s mission. She wants to show people with disabilities have skills and talents—and the desire to work and live life as independently as possible—that are valuable not only to communities, but to the overall economy as well. Many disabled job seekers and workers want to make meaningful contributions to society just as anyone else. In addition to running the bakery, Divitto is also founder of Collette’s Leadership Program, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping disabled people (and potential employers) find pathways to employment through trainings, workshops, and more. She’s also written a book, Collette in Kindergarten.
“People have called me a tenacious young woman with a strong will for perseverance despite my challenges,” Divitto said in a recent interview over email. “After years of rejection for employment and always being told I was not a good fit, I decided to not give up and start my own company so I could earn a living and live independently.”
How are Collette’s cookies? Delicious! People “love” them, and a high percentage of buyers end up returning customers. “I get messages every day from people saying ‘I wanted to support your cause but WOW your cookies are the best!’” she said.
As for her role in Born for Business came about, Divitto explained she reached out to the producers at Bunim/Murray (best known for MTV’s The Real World) after watching the Emmy-nominated series Born This Way and being disappointed with the depiction of her community. “The first episode showed people with Down syndrome very dependent on others and only having each other as friends,” she said. “I called the producer to tell him how I thought that was hurting people with Down syndrome and [perpetuated the stigma] of what the world thought of us.” Divitto added the producers were very gracious in hearing her opinions, and they kept in touch. Their contact eventually led her to audition to be on Born for Business.
“I am glad to show people I live on my own and run my own businesses,” Divitto said.
Feedback on the show thus far has been positive for Divitto. She describes it as “really good” and “everyone says it is done so well and so professional.” People want to see more of her on screen, she added.
In the future, Divitto hopes to find an investor partner to help expand her cookie business across the United States and Canada. She also is working on a second book.