The Definitive Guide to Business with Marcus Lemonis

How a single mom of a 13-year-old CEO learned to be more confident—and scored a meeting with Amazon

When Cory Nieves was 6 years old, he started Mr. Cory's Cookies company to raise money for a new car for his mom. These days, the 13-year-old and his mother Lisa Howard have turned their New Jersey-based cookie brand into a full-blown business that recently scored a meeting and potential multi-million dollar partnership with Amazon.

On this week's episode of "The Profit," host Marcus Lemonis sees that Howard is challenged not only by the company's growing pains but also with her own self-confidence issues even as business is booming.

Marucs Lemonis in the kitchen with Cory Nieves and Lisa Howard of Mr. Cory's Cookies.
Marucs Lemonis in the kitchen with Cory Nieves and Lisa Howard of Mr. Cory's Cookies.

Here are the three lessons that Lemonis taught Howard to bolster her confidence and, as a result, help grow her business and land a potential deal with Amazon.

Don't let your past dictate your future

While Nieves is in school, Howard does most of the company's work as the chief operating officer.

Howard grew up in foster care. When she ran away at 16 years old, she had Nieves and raised him as a single mother. Before she began baking with her son to save up for his future college education, Howard told Lemonis she learned how to bake thanks to "the school of hard knocks."

Although she said she daydreams of working in an office building and successfully running her store, Howard is afraid of ever letting her guard down and trusting others because of people who were mean and hard on her.

"I've been burned a lot," Howard said. "When you grow up in the system, you can't trust nobody, you got to always fend for yourself and maybe that's the baggage that I'll always hold."

Howard had held onto the belief that she would never amount to anything because of her circumstance. However, Lemonis aimed to change that.

"You have to have a little bit of faith in yourself before you put any faith in anybody else," Lemonis told her.

When Lemonis offered to invest $100,000 and receive 40 percent ownership of the business to help the company with its packaging, ecommerce and product development, Lisa was hesitant to accept because of failed negotiations and relationships in the past.

Reassuring Howard that he has her and Nieves' best interests in mind, Lemonis said that the "biggest opportunity" he sees is with her.

"This business needs a leader and I feel like with the right training, that you are the real superstar here because in my mind you're important," Lemonis said.

Surround yourself with supporters and mentors

Before making a deal and accepting Lemonis' investment, Howard made clear that she wanted him to provide mentorship for her and Nieves.

To help Howard move on from her negative experiences with people in the past and build her self-confidence, Lemonis invited her to meet the "best support network": other women business owners just like her.

There, several women encouraged Howard to not only push for success for Nieves' sake but for her own career as well.

Later on, Lemonis also honored one of Nieves' biggest goals of meeting J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon by taking Nieves and Howard to the company's New York office.

"Being in business isn't about making a million dollars in the first year, it's about enjoying and celebrating the little wins and then letting them mount up over time," Lemonis said.

Though Howard told Lemonis she didn't feel "built for this type of world" and capable of making Mr. Cory's Cookies a huge success, Lemonis provided some reassurance.

"You can, I'm positive," Lemonis said. "I wouldn't be standing here, but I know there's more inside of you and I'm going to keep digging because I know that you're capable."

Stay true to your mission

The biggest result of growing pains Howard has faced with the cookie company is meeting demand from larger clients while also maintaining the cookies' original taste.

Lemonis explained that if they score the multi-million dollar partnership with Amazon, the company will work with Mr. Cory's Cookies to establish their own marketplace with a landing page that promotes their story and their products.

Nieves kicked off the business meeting with Sallie Ann Hirsch, senior manager at Amazon Exclusives and Jennifer Stockton, head of global partnerships at Amazon Pay, with his pitch.

Along with financials, he provided the company's main mission of "helping the world one cookie at a time to never add any wacky ingredients we can't pronounce." But it was Howard's personal mission for Mr. Cory's that especially captured the Amazon executives' attention.

"Our goal is the highest seventy percent single moms in the workforce who are inexperienced," Howard said. "As a single mom, I never got to get a good job. If you want your child to be the best they can be, you put them first. So imagine hiring people like that, who don't have that degree and all this other stuff but we can help them by giving them a chance."

"You speak to every mom out there and I think that's an important piece of the story, it sells me as a mom," Stockton told Howard.

Hirsch added, "It's so powerful when you tell that story and on Amazon we want to bring that to life."

As part of the potential deal, Hirsch assured Amazon would help with marketing, help Howard with onboarding and provide consultants to help her navigate the big Amazon landscape."

After presenting the company's new office space to the mother and son, Lemonis asked Howard to do one final favor for him: Always remind her future employees and around her that anything is possible.

"When they say to you it's not possible, you say to them 'I'm an example, it's possible' and you have to really be a leader and show people that," Lemonis said. "That's why I invested in you because I felt like you earned the shot and you are one unbelievable mother."

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Video by Richard Washington