“Don’t just start a business for the money—do it for your heart,” said Cory Nieves, the founder and CEO of cookie delivery company Mr. Cory’s Cookies, crossing his legs and adjusting his glasses. Nieves founded Mr. Cory’s Cookies at age 6—and now, eight years later, the ninth grader’s business is booming.
On April 25, Nieves spoke at WeWork 500 7th Ave in New York City during an event for Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day (TODASTWD). Eva Chen, the author of two children’s books (and the director of fashion partnerships at Instagram), and Lola Glass, professionally known as Lola the Illustrator, a 10-year-old blossoming muralist and member of the outdoor street art gallery Bushwick Collective, joined Nieves for a fun-filled afternoon of face-painting, storytelling, and superhero capes.
Nieves, Glass, and Chen talked to the audience about how to foster an entrepreneurial spirit in children—no matter their age.
Let them explore. After Chen wrapped up her animated reading of bestselling children’s book Juno Valentine and the Magical Shoes, she opened the floor for questions. When a girl with a butterfly-painted face asked if Chen always wanted to be an author, Chen said, “This book is about trying to do different things and figuring out what you love. And once you find it,” she adds, “practice, practice, practice!”
While some children, like Glass and Nieves, show their superpower at an early age, others benefit from exploration. Parents’ job: Keep an open mind and allow them to try out different activities until they find their passion.
Put them in the driver’s seat. While you might assume that Nieves’s superpower is making delicious cookies, he’ll tell you it’s really his ability to talk to and become friends with anyone. His mother, Lisa Howard (also known as the “Cookie Mom”), is happy to let Nieves take the spotlight.
Howard and Nieves work together on the company’s day-to-day operations, but Howard knows when to let her son’s superpowers shine. For example, when Nieves caught wind that there would be a child at the TODASTWD event with an egg allergy, he was determined to bring cookies the child could safely eat. Howard wasn’t so sure about tinkering with recipes for one kid—but she agreed, and the two of them worked with their staff (aka “the cookie helpers”) to formulate an egg-free cookie.
Know when to lend a helping hand. Glass splashed color onto the canvas during her live illustration, periodically consulting with her mother on her progress. It was her mother who helped jump-start Glass’s career as a street artist when she was just 6 years old. Glass had been given a new spray marker when her mother took her to the Bushwick Collective for the first time—you can see where this is going.
“I started drawing on the walls, right on top of a wonderful Beau Stanton piece, just as Joe Ficalora, the curator of the Bushwick collective, walked by,” Glass remembered. Ficalora was furious—until Glass’s mom rushed over to talk to him. “After speaking with my mom, Joe asked if I wanted to join the Bushwick Collective.”
Let them be social. The guests emphasized that putting yourself out there is important for any entrepreneur, artist, or author. Glass’s advice for other artists: “If you’re shy, don’t be,” she said. “The process can be pretty scary, but you make the world better when you do art, whether it’s on a piece of paper or on a huge wall.”
Nieves admitted to having some jitters before a recent appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. To get past it, while on stage, he pretended everyone in the audience was a cat. ”I had nothing to be nervous about because I was talking to cats,” he said matter-of-factly.
To get the word out about her book, Chen says she mentioned it to anyone who would listen, in person and on social media.
Believe in them. The hardest part about being a young entrepreneur, according to Nieves, is that adults don’t take you seriously. “But kids are getting into the business world and are actually hiring adults,” he pointed out.
Howard acknowledged that between homework, laundry, and making dinner, it’s easy to get distracted. “If you aren’t mindful, you may not recognize that your child has a gift,” Howard said to the crowd of parents. “If you don’t support your kid, how will anyone else support them?”
Growing from a few to a few hundred employees takes strategy and the right space.