Lisa Howard was 16 years old and living in foster care when she gave birth to her son, Cory Nieves. Living as a single mother on welfare who received Section 8 rental assistance, Lisa struggled to get an education.
“I was going to school here and there, but it was hard for me to finish because I had my son and I had no babysitter,” she said. “I had no family.”
She worked odd jobs to stay afloat, her whole life never earning more than $10 an hour.
But what started out as her 6-year-old son selling hot chocolate on the street in New Jersey would later turn into the company, Mr. Cory’s Cookies.
Before a Cookie Business
When Lisa and Cory moved to Englewood, N.J., from Harlem, they did not own a car. Lisa would walk or take public transit to get around, occasionally getting rides from friends.
“It was pretty sad to see her struggling; lots of people have cars,” Cory said.
Cory began selling hot chocolate on the street corner at the age of six to help his mom buy a car. He would later add cookies and lemonade to the menu as the weather changed. The pair eventually developed their own cookie recipe and focused their sales on cookies.
Lisa was surprised with the success and told her son. He was making upwards of $300 per day. She urged him to continue selling to save up for his college education.
But the off-the-books business was shut down for violating health regulations when someone called the Department of Health.
But that setback led to an outpouring of support.
An Ellen Appearance
“I never thought in a million years I would get an office,” Lisa said.
Not only does Mr. Cory’s Cookies now have a brand new office in a cozy neighborhood in Englewood, they also have a custom company car.
In 2014, the family’s story was brought to the attention of Ellen Degeneres. Ellen surprised the pair with $10,000 and a brand new custom 2015 Ford Escape.
Their story also inspired Marcus Lemonis, host of CNBC’s “The Profit,” a reality show dedicated to help struggling businesses. Mr. Lemonis agreed to invest into the company.
“I started from the bottom, now I’m here,” Lisa said.
Mr. Cory’s Cookies, LLC
Now in 8th grade, Cory serves a CEO of Mr. Cory’s Cookies, and Lisa works as the CFO.
“It’s powerful and it’s empowering,” Cory said on holding his title.
Mr. Cory’s Cookies bakes all natural chocolate chip cookies in a commercial kitchen and ships nationwide. Cory hosts pop-up shops across New York and New Jersey and has worked with companies and brands such as Bloomingdales, Citibank, Macy’s, Mercedes-Benz, TOMS, Viacom, and Whole Foods.
While the company still struggles at points, Lisa and Cory are always willing to give back to their community.
“It’s all about kindness; it’s all about how you treat each other,” Lisa said.
Opportunity for Single Mothers
Lisa’s passion for helping single mothers and at-risk children stems from her own experiences. Lisa’s goal is to hire at least 70% single mothers to give them opportunities they may otherwise not have.
“I want to be such a voice in that environment out there for these single mothers and for these kids. And they come in all shapes and colors.”
In 2017 the U.S. Census Bureau found that out of about 12 million single parent families with children under the age of 18, more than 80% were headed by single mothers.
Lisa recognizes that single mothers may not get opportunities in the workforce due to a lack of education or work experience. She hopes to give single mothers in her community an opportunity to grow and support their kids.
“One hand washes the other,” she said. “You do good to somebody, it comes back.”
A Bright Future
Lisa is thankful for the support she has received and the opportunities that have been provided to her and her son.
“I truly can say I’m blessed.”
Cory’s hopes for the future include adding more cookie flavors to the menu and having their cookies ship internationally.
“I have a lot of things for the future. I can’t wait.”
Cory is inspired by the impossible. He says every morning he wakes up and dreams of six impossible things.
“Nothing is impossible, don’t let anyone tell you your dreams are impossible.”
You can learn more about Mr. Cory’s Cookies here.