Cory Nieves started a cookie business at six-years-old to help his mother buy a car but it is now an international brand

BY Preta Peace Namasaba March 4, 2024 1:16 PM EDT
Cory Nieves. Photo credit: Crain's New York Business

While adults notice the important details, children pay attention to everything. Cory Nieves noticed that his mother, Lisa Howard, didn’t have a car when they moved to Englewood, New Jersey. He saw her struggling to get around, walking or taking public transit and occasionally getting rides from friends. At six years old, young Cory started a cookie business to raise money for a new car for his mother. Over a decade later, he has earned what he set out to achieve – a car for his mother and a college scholarship. His cookies are not only distributed nationwide in major retailers but are also available internationally.

“It all began because I was tired of taking the bus. I wanted to buy my mom a car so I started selling hot chocolate out of a friend’s restaurant,” the young man explained.

But when Cory initially came to his mom with the idea, she wasn’t convinced of its feasibility. Howard grew up in foster care and had her son when she ran away at 16 years old. She was a single mother on welfare, receiving Section 8 rental assistance, and working odd jobs to stay afloat. Howard had never earned more than $10 an hour her entire life and the idea of starting a business seemed overly expensive. Nonetheless, she was Nieves’ biggest supporter and helped him start his business

With his mother’s support, the little boy began selling hot chocolate on the street corner. He later added cookies and lemonade to the menu as the weather changed. The mother-son duo eventually developed their own cookie recipe and focused their sales on cookies. Perfecting their product proved to be a difficult experience, with some cookies being either too soft or too hard. The business overcame its production challenges and was soon making more than $300 per day.

Unfortunately, growth was accompanied by setbacks.

The business was being run off-the-books and was shut down for violating health regulations when someone called the Department of Health. The family’s plight was brought to the attention of the public and the business received an outpouring of support. In 2014, Nieves and his mother appeared on the Ellen Degeneres show where they were surprised with $10,000 and a brand new custom 2015 Ford Escape. With a brand new office and a custom company car, the business was ready for the next step.

“We started making cookies out of our home, but we, of course had to make sure we were complying with health regulations. We then leveled up and secured a commercial kitchen and now we mass-produce our product nationwide,” Cory said about how his business overcame challenges.

In addition, a local bakery owner referred Cory and his mother to a local attorney who helped them form a legal business and secure a commercial kitchen. The company was officially registered as Mr. Cory’s Cookies. Their story inspired Marcus Lemonis, host of CNBC’s “The Profit” to invest $100,000 for a 40 percent ownership stake in the brand. The business was able to scale its packaging, e-commerce and product development with this ample cash injection.

Mr. Cory’s Cookies has since expanded into a diverse collection of ten original recipe cookies including the Double Dark, Oatmeal Raisin, and Sugar, among others. Its cookies are available at high-profile retailers such as Barney’s, Bloomingdales, Macy’s, Pottery Barn, and Whole Foods. Online sales have enabled the brand to its products internationally with some of their highest market sales being in Canada and Saudi Arabia. Over the years, Nieves has forged collaborations with prominent companies and brands, including Aetna, Barney’s, Bloomingdale’s, Citibank, Macy’s, Mercedes-Benz, Ralph Lauren, TOMS, and Viacom.

Furthermore, Mr. Cory’s Cookies is giving back to the community by aiding various local and national charities. It has worked with organizations such as Bergen’s Promise in Rochelle Park, New Jersey, and the Children’s Aid Society in New York City. The brand also donates a lot of cookies to the less fortunate. The young Mr, Nieves is also the founder of Mr. Corey Cares, a foundation that supports charities. 

Nieves is currently a finance student at Penn State University. He is using his success as an entrepreneur to encourage other young people to become entrepreneurs and create positive change in their community.