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'Full-circle joy': Confetti company employs women in recovery

Leonetti Confetti's main focus is to empower and employ women in treatment.

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota — Kristy Williams has struggled her whole life with addiction. 

Williams said it started with food as a child and then she turned to drugs in her thirties. 

"When I finally decided now to get clean, I mean really clean, it's a whole different thing. It's a feeling inside that I've never had before," Williams said. 

She's now staying at Smith Lodge in Plymouth, a sober house run by the nonprofit Missions Inc. 

"It's my second go-around here. I was here once before and I came back... but I came back with a purpose this time," Williams said. 

Part of her recovery journey includes working. She hand-cuts confetti for the Minneapolis party supply company, Leonetti Confetti.

"It's very, very rare to be able to find someone that will give you a job," she said. 

Leonetti Confetti founder, Kylee Leonetti, solely hires women in recovery. 

Credit: Heidi Wigdahl
Kylee Leonett and Kristy Williams cut confetti at Smith Lodge in Plymouth.

At first, Leonetti wasn't sure what she wanted to do with her confetti business. As a photographer and filmmaker, she noticed how much people loved including confetti in their celebrations but the paper didn't have purpose beyond that. A mentor of Leonetti asked her, "How do you assign value?"

Then in 2018, Wayside Recovery Center was working with Leonetti on another project when she wondered what happened to the women in recovery when they were ready to re-enter the workforce. 

Leonetti herself had a close family member who ended up in the hospital after overdosing on heroin in 2015. 

"There just needs to be that one person who reaches through the stigma—and it's thick—and says, 'Hey, I don't care. I'm willing to hire you. I'm willing to take a chance on you,'" Leonetti said. 

Leonetti works mostly with women at Wayside Recovery Center, as well as with Williams. 

With her first paycheck, Williams was able to finally buy herself a winter coat. She calls it her "confetti coat." She also bought herself a pair of matching boots. 

"I've never had a boss that wanted so much to see me succeed," Williams said. 

Credit: Kylee Leonetti
Kylee Leonetti and Kristy Williams

Leonetti also removes some of the barriers that women in recovery may face, like transportation. She provides all the supplies in confetti-making kits and brings them to the treatment centers. The women are able to cut the confetti from home and the hours are flexible. 

"Somebody said to me, 'What do you mean you cut confetti?' I said, 'Well somebody has to do it.' I said, 'I cut confetti,'" Williams said. "Maybe I'm not working at IBM but I'm working." 

However, Leonetti also learns more about the women's skills. Williams has experience in business writing and she is now going to help Leonetti and her husband with their photography website. 

Credit: Kylee and Christian Creative
Kids throw Leonetti Confetti in the air.

Leonetti Confetti has received some big support, providing confetti for the Minnesota Vikings and for the interactive pop-up 'Sota Pop that appeared during the Minnesota Super Bowl. 

"It wasn't just garbage paper. It actually made a difference in someone's life when we threw it in the air," Leonetti said. 

Leonetti Confetti is currently transitioning to biodegradable paper, thanks to a $1,000 donation from Fourpost. They also plan on releasing a confetti print bag collaboration in March. They'll be working with True Ethic who sources bags from Freeset, an organization that works with survivors of human trafficking. 

Williams while cutting confetti said, "Silly little pieces of paper have a lot of impact... silly little pieces of paper." 

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