Cory Nieves is getting the royal treatment.
The 14-year-old Englewood boy has been named as one of the recipients of the Diana Award, a recognition inspired by the late Princess of Wales given annually to youth involved humanitarian work in their communities.
To mark the 20th anniversary of the award, the organization is working to show that young people can and do give back to others by launching the Change Makers campaign.
Altogether 12 kids were given awards, as well as named Change Makers, for their work to challenge negative stereotypes that young people are often labeled with.
Cory is one of six kids from the United States honored and the only one who hails from New Jersey.
After launching his own gourmet cookie company at the age of six, Cory became a celebrity, amassing 80,000-plus followers on social media, modeling in fashion campaigns and appearing on television shows such as “The Profit” and “MasterChef Junior.”
In response to his success, the mini mogul decided it was only right he find a way to give back. And so, he founded Mr. Cory Cares, a non-profit that supports charities locally and nationally.
Cory said the honor was unexpected but nonetheless “incredible” to receive such an accolade. He hopes the Change Makers campaign will inspire “other young people to make a change in this word.”
“I want other kids to stand up and fight for what they believe in,” the teen said.
Helping charities, particularly ones that serve single moms and at-risk youth, remains just as important to Cory as whipping up new recipes and promoting his tasty treats. Among the groups he’s helped: Bergen’s Promise in Rochelle Park and Children’s Aid Society in New York.
“We want to help the community a lot because the community helped us when we started out. We wouldn’t be here without the community’s backing,” he said.
Cory was nominated for the award by Alicia Maxey Green, a public relations specialist and brand strategist for Mr. Cory’s Cookies.
Green said the teen creates positive change by “being a shining example of how hard work can turn a boy into a successful entrepreneur.”
“Despite his humble beginnings – being born to a single, teenaged mom while she was in foster care – Cory is a smart, driven and empathetic youngster. He exhibits positivity in his personality, style and mannerisms,” she said.
“Everyday, he looks the part of a CEO while wearing a dress shirt, tie, smart trousers and signature glasses. With thousands of followers across his social media platforms, Cory demonstrates how he turned his desire to buy his mother a car into a full-fledged cookie business that is also socially conscious.”
Cory, as well as the other 11 honorees, “demonstrate that young people are a driving force for good and have incredible power to create change,” said Tessy Ojo, CEO of The Diana Award.
She added: “Despite negative perception, the vast majority of young people want to make a positive impact on society.”
Last fall, Cory and his mom traveled to London to collect the award and spent a week there, seeing sights such as Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace. And, of course, trying some British cuisine.
Lisa said the experience has been “crazy and amazing.”
“We’re sitting here in Englewood, selling cookies and doing our thing, and then it went international,” she said. “I’m so thankful at how blessed we’ve been.”
It is “an honor” to be given an award created to mark the legacy Princess Diana, who Lisa said was “an amazing woman who inspired people from all walks of life.”
“I always tell Cory that the sky is the limit and anything is possible. And, to do the best you can, rock it and don’t worry about the noise behind it,” Lisa said, adding, “I also tell him he’s amazing no matter what.”
Even before the royal recognition, life for Cory and Lisa, has been very much like a fairy tale.
The family’s story began back in 2009 on a sidewalk near their Englewood home. Six-year-old Cory was determined to help his mom, a single parent, buy a car, so he started selling hot cocoa, cookies and lemonade to raise money.
Cory, the company’s CEO, worked alongside his mom, who serves as the business’s CFO, worked hard – and struggled at points – to make Mr. Cory’s Cookies a successful venture.
In 2014, the duo’s story caught the attention of Ellen DeGeneres who surprised the family with $10,000 and a brand new car. Marcus Lemonis, host of CNBC’s “The Profit,” also took notice of the pair and wound up investing money into the company.
Now a privately held company, Mr. Cory’s Cookies are sold at pop-up shops in New Jersey and New York, as well as online at MrCorysCookies.com. The cookies are baked at a commercial kitchen in Harlem and ship nationwide.
Stacy Cook, an Englewood police detective involved in the department’s youth services division, was also involved in nominating Cory for the Diana Award.
“I can’t think of a more deserving person to receive it,” said Cook, who added, that Cory “at a very young age knew he wanted to give back to his community.”
“I have known Cory and Lisa for several years and their story is an amazing testament as to hard work really does pay off. The odds were against Cory and Lisa from day one. Lisa was born and raised in the rough streets of Harlem, her father wasn’t present in her life and her mother was addicted to drugs. Lisa had to grow up fast once she became a teen mom,” Cook said. “Once she had Cory, she soon moved to New Jersey to provide a better life for him.”
The pair has “made many personal sacrifices in order to build their company, build professional relationships and give back to the community. I am proud of both of them to see them come such a long way, from walking all around town and selling cookies out of local businesses to seeing them on national television on such shows as ‘Chef Junior’ and ‘The Profit,’” Cook said.
Besides the challenges that any entrepreneur would encounter, Cory has had another hurdle to clear.
Initially, many people “don’t take you seriously when you’re a kid and you have a business,” he said. “Then once they see you’re serious, they change their mind.”
But, it’s important to show adults that “you’re up to the challenge.”
As for his future, Cory plans to head to college after high school “to learn more about business.”
“I want to keep our business and grow it more,” he said.
The teen already has a wealth of business knowledge, often fielding questions from fellow kids, as well as adults, about the ins and outs of the cookie business.
The number one piece of advice Cory said he gives: “Never do it for the money. Do it for the love of what you do. If you do it for the money, the customers will know.”
For more information about Mr. Cory’s Cookies, visit MrCorysCookies.com. Additional details about The Diana Award and Change Makers campaign can be found on https://diana-award.org.uk.
By Kimberly Redmond