Rejection and Redirection

What do you do, when you face a series of rejections? Do you give up on what you want? Do you reevaluate and try again? Or do you do like 26 year-old Collette Divitto did: take the best of what you’ve learned and go in a completely different direction?

Living in Boston, this young lady with Down syndrome wasn’t going to let her disability stop her from being a contributing member of society. Since the age of 15, she had developed a serious baking hobby. She took courses, made up her own recipes and honed her craft.

After studying at Clemson University, Collette was ready to enter the job market. She applied for a variety of baking jobs, but every time people met her, they would ultimately choose not to hire her.

“We spent a lot of years with a lot of people shutting doors on her,” Rosemary Alfredo, Divitto’s mother, told ABC News.

To each interview, Collette would bring a plate of her special chocolate chip cookie dipped in cinnamon, called the “Amazing Cookie.” And even though these people didn’t want to hire Collette, they still wrote her to ask for more cookies. Clearly they thought Collette had talent.

“It’s really upsetting,” Collette said. “Feels like I really just want to curl up on the couch and cry.”

But instead of giving up, Collette decided to turn the tables on these people who rejected her. So in 2011, with the help of her mother and sister, she opened Collettey’s Cookies. For five years, the operation was small. Then, in 2016 Collette’s story was picked up by the local NBC TV station in Boston.

Within 10 days, Collette had over 9.5 million views on Facebook, over 50,000 cookies ordered, and landed her first client, Boston’s Golden Goose Market. 65,000 people sent her letters and over 100 people offered to gift their skills or services — some even wanting to invest. Today, Collette has moved the business out of her mom’s house and hired her first employee, a woman with cerebral palsy.

Today, Collette is running a GoFundMe campaign to replicate the first phase of her business across the country in different states, so she can offer employment to thousands of people with different abilities. Within two months, she’s raised almost $20,000.

“76 percent are unemployed and so want desperately to have a job, earn money, and be a worthy part of a team,” Collette said.

Collette’s story is a perfect example of hitting a brick wall, looking at it differently, and transforming it into a road to success. The fact that people wanted more of her cookies, even when they didn’t want to hire her, was a sign that she had a good product. Rather than depend on others for her success, she took control of her destiny, and created a business that was in direct competition with them. And now Collette’s showing the world that people with (dis)abilities have value to bring to society, and is setting up structures to employ more of them.

One cannot go through life without occasionally facing rejection. Without such feedback, we would have no data with which to make needed course corrections. The challenge is not allowing the emotions surrounding rejection to get the best of us. With a little rational thought and objective ingenuity, we can take any barrier we face and transform it into a new path.

What’s one aspect of your life where you’ve felt continually rejected, or up against a wall that never seems to budge? How might someone other than yourself look at the challenge and find a workaround? Now, what’s one thing you can do this week, to put that workaround into action?

“I take rejection as someone blowing a bugle in my ear to wake me up and get going, rather than retreat.” — Sylvester Stallone

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