moms are amazing rosemary and collette

Collette Divitto has enjoyed baking for as long as she can remember. When she enrolled in a baking class in high school, she had no idea it would pave the way for her entrepreneurial journey as founder and CEO of her Charlestown, Massachusetts-based company, Collettey’s Cookies. “The teacher called three months into it, and I thought she was going to tell me [Collette] was struggling,” says Rosemary Alfredo, Collette’s mom, who is also the company’s director of PR and marketing. “But she told me Collette was her best student. She was teaching and helping the other kids in the class.” 

Collette, who has Down syndrome, was born in 1990 into a family of determined and hard-working entrepreneurs. Rosemary explains: “My dad was an entrepreneur. It was important to my parents to instill in us an understanding that you get pride from work and self-esteem from making your own money. We all grew up having chores and having jobs.”

That’s a mindset Rosemary passed down to her children.  

Living and learning in the real world  

Although Rosemary attended college for a time, she ultimately relied on what she calls “street smarts” to get ahead in life. “Back when I went to college, the professors had been in education their whole lives,” she says. “Sometimes I would sit in class and think, ‘This is not what’s going to happen in the real world.’” That prompted her to leave college and take part-time classes, learning things like real estate development and construction. She went on to launch several successful ventures of her own in those areas, as well as an athletic club.

When it came to Collette’s education, Rosemary reflected on her college days and recognized the system simply wasn’t set up to teach her daughter the real-life skills she believed she would need to succeed. So, from elementary through middle school, Rosemary partnered with educators to develop projects and lessons that would help Collette develop confidence and self-esteem while she learned. Collette flourished.

Collette headshot

As a parent, she has always been my best friend, my rock, and my hero. I wouldn’t be here without my mom.

Collette Divitto

Founder & CEO, Collettey’s Cookies

In high school, however, things changed. Unable to keep up with the rigors of standardized education in her peer group, Collette began to spiral. Rosemary had to start from square one. “Every time you hit these different schools, you have different leadership, different principals, who have different mentalities,” she says.

After several meetings with school administrators, Rosemary was able to make the case that Collette would be better off with a specialized curriculum that incorporated facets of traditional learning with valuable life skills. “I asked for all the textbooks, and then I wrote the curriculum,” Rosemary says. “It was about voting for the president, traveling, creating a budget, banking. Whether it was global history or science, I wrote her curriculum [about] what she needed to learn.”

Rosemary then looked to electives to augment the rest of Collette’s education. And that’s when she enrolled Collette in a baking class.

Building on a foundation of success

After high school, Collette went on to graduate from Clemson University’s LIFE program and was intent on living a life of independence. She moved to Boston and applied for job after job, but the responses from employers were always the same: “You’re not a fit for our company.”

Never one to give up — it’s a trait that runs in the family — Collette charted her own course. With Rosemary’s assistance, she combined her love of baking with business and launched Collettey’s Cookies, a profitable online bakery that also employs others living with disabilities.

“There are so many amazing things about my mom,” Collette says. “She has taught me so many incredible things and is so inspirational to me. As a parent, she has always been my best friend, my rock, and my hero. I wouldn’t be here without my mom.”

Adds Rosemary: “I’m glad Collette believes in me, because I believe in her.”

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Rebecca Razo has over 20 years of experience in book and magazine publishing, editorial project management, and content creation. She has overseen the creative development of hundreds of books, and she writes across multiple categories, including art, DIY, home decor, lifestyle, and more. Originally from Southern California, Rebecca now lives in the Pacific Northwest where she enjoys hiking, reading, baking, and cuddling with her two dogs and cat.

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