By Hillary Latos & Michael Travin
All photos by: Mike Coppola of Getty Images | Cinematographer & Post Production Editor: Benjamin Adler
When Barbara Corcoran walks into a room the entire place lights up. Her larger than life personality and charisma is only matched by her effervescent energy that touches everyone. With her self effacing honesty to her strong intuition and drive, luck and life’s destiny have shaped Barbara into the success she is today. Here Resident spends some time with the Shark Tank dynamo in her gorgeous Park Avenue aerie as she opens up about her successes and failures, dishes on her costars, muses over her investment choices, and reflects on what really makes her happy.
Corcoran: Now I didn’t really start with nothing. I had the luckiest break in the world, I was a diner waitress and the right guy walked in and gave me a ride home and six months later he said you’ll be great in real estate. I didn’t even think of real estate on my own, someone else came up with that idea. Lucky for me, he offered me a $1000 for 51 percent of the interest. So that’s not starting with nothing, probably a million people going through life hoping for a break but will never see anything like that. So I didn’t have rich parents but if I did, I wouldn’t be aggressive, I wouldn’t be insecure, I wouldn’t be hungry so that’s lucky too. I really did have a number of lucky breaks through my whole career. I think luck finds me and I find luck. I feel like if there’s luck it’s going to happen to me and it usually does and I ignore the bad things.
Q: Did you financially feel that you sold Corcoran too early?
Corcoran: A lot of people ask me that. Remember I signed the contract to sell Corcoran Friday night before 9/11, another piece of luck. They were in a contract, they would have loved to dump that contract but it was signed, sealed and delivered so we closed roughly two months later. Now people would say you could have sold it for so much more but I say certainly you could, the company continues to grow, I knew it was going to continue to grow, it was poised for tremendous growth, it was in perfect condition, I knew that’s what I was selling and that’s why I got a very good sales price. But sometimes people say, I hear that they’re making 10 times the amount of money don’t you wish you hadn’t sold it? No because I’ve had this very rich career since, and had I even gotten 10 times more money, it wouldn’t have changed my life. What would I do differently? I’ve got plenty of money, more money I’ve ever dreamed of, so what would I do? It would complicate your life, because money complicates your life contrary to belief I’d still rather have it but it complicates your life, comes with a lot of complications.
Q: Between Corcoran and Shark Tank there was time in between.
Corcoran: I’ve been doing Shark Tank for seven seasons and I sold Corcoran 13 years ago so in the six years I was a real estate expert on First Fox, then I was a political expert on Fox because that was the only job I could get even though I didn’t even know who the President was. At least I ended up getting a gig on Good Morning America and then I turned that into The Today Show as the in-house real estate expert and that provided very good living for all those years and that’s how Shark Tank found me and asked me if I’d be interested. But i have
to tell you the hardest chapter of my entire life was the two years following Corcoran because I had no idea how closely my identity was tied into that company. I used to get up in the morning and now know what clothes to wear. I took my 11 bright red suits, that were my trademark, boxed them and sent them to Dolly Herman right away and then I realized that I had nothing to wear to get dressed up but it was like finding who you were independent of the business. It was very much a part of me but it was a difficult journey those two years. All the friends that you have on the rolodex, the minute you don’t have the power beneath you, the truth in the matter is that people don’t return your calls. That was an eye opener for me. I thought I had great influence in me but the influence was because I was standing on a powerful firm, once I was alone and no longer the real estate expert everything changed. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I took one cooking class because I love pasta.
Q: What was your favorite company that you met from Shark Tank?
Corcoran: Cousins Maine Lobster founded by two drop dead gorgeous guys from LA who were so good looking and charming, I didn’t care what they were selling, I was in. They’re doing so well, with 17 franchises now, which was my idea to turn this single weekend truck into a franchise. They have an online shore to door lobster business and just opened their first restaurant last month in LA. They’re still so good looking and they constantly send me photos of all of us together and they airbrush my face so I look exactly their age now. They’re like the perfect storm.
Q: What’s the biggest failure that you invested in?
Corcoran: It was a gourmet cat food business and the entrepreneur was so enthusiastic about cats but I hated cats so I should have that it was a bad sign. After I invested in the business I never thought to see if cats actually liked the food, they hated it, not a single cat would eat that food and we were out of business in three months.
Q: In terms of people versus products, how do you decide which companies you want to invest in?
Corcoran: I have to believe the product is sellable at the price that they are quoting, and that there are enough people that want to buy it. That being said the rest of the 95 percent is how much I believe in trusting the entrepreneur. Sometimes I don’t even listen to their words, I’m just zoning out on set and trying to size them up in that sense and see if I trust them and if I get that great vibe, I go in. It’s funny on the few times I vacillate, I try to figure out what is it about them, what if I took my kid Kate, threw her into their arms and come back in five years, would Kate be ok? If I can’t picture her being ok, I’m out right away. I give some other reasons of why I’m out, not because you can’t take care of my Kate during a war but that’s my ambivalence test.
Q: What kind of advice would you have for a budding entrepreneur?
Corcoran: Do it right away. I mean what we’re taught today is to analyze, come up with a great idea, I say run out of the gate and just try the damn thing. The first thing 99 percent of entrepreneurs miss is they ask their friends and family what they think about it but never ask anyone with a check to pay for it. And if they did, they find out whether they have a deal or not. But you just have to do it when you’re young before you have the mortgage and the kids.
Q: What’s your biggest life lesson?
Corcoran: Attitude is 99.9 percent of everything. If you have an attitude that you will find an opportunity, you will find it. If you have an attitude you will jump over a hurdle. When it hits you in the head, you will find a way to jump it. If you don’t have optimism, you’re never going to make it in the business.
Q: How would you describe each of your costars on the show?
Corcoran: Kevin is the sweetest guy in the world, he is a wonderful actor so he plays the bad guy but in essence he’s a sweetheart and a pushover. The one best line about Kevin, when his wife Linda walks onto the set, he shakes at the knees visibly. He is afraid of her. Mark Cuban is the tallest guy on the set and all the other guys hate him for that. He’s also got the billions while everyone else has the millions so there’s a big difference. Robert Herjavec, he is very high maintenance, you would swear he is the woman on the set. He is very particular about his clothes, antsy all the time, chatty. I always feel like I have female company when he’s on the set so that’s nice.
Lorie, she’s the best merchant on Shark Tank. She can make a product and slam it home better than anyone else. Damon is a sweetheart, filthy sense of humor, keeps us laughing the entire time on Shark Tank. He is the most people smart of the whole cast. I’ve jumped into a couple of deals that Damon said to me don’t trust that guy and I think I’m great with sizing people up but he was right. I lost my money both times. He grew up in the ghetto, you learn to be street smart. He is the most street smart out of all of us because he had the hardest time growing up. He is also a chick magnet. You go anywhere with Damon and there must be a radar in the universe where women within 30 sq miles are there within five minutes.
Q: What is your favorite part about the show?
Corcoran: The favorite part of the show is after the show, I enjoy the aftermath of Shark Tank working with the good entrepreneurs, having the satisfaction of seeing how well they do and feeling like you’re a part of it. I like the aftermath probably 10 times more than I like the performance aspect of the show because on the show I’m nervous on my seat and every episode I’m spending a lot of money and you have to make those decisions quickly. Each time I wonder if I’m wrong so it’s a lot of stress. Whereas after the show, they are on my timetable. I can figure out how much time I want to spend or if I want to back off from a deal immediately. When someone starts feeling sorry for themselves, I’m out. It takes maybe only three months after they’ve been a hit on shark tank to see that happens. The minute the entrepreneurs starts blaming others rather than I screwed up I’m out of there. I may have given them my money, signed the contract, but I don’t spend any more time with them, it’s a total waste of my time. If somebody takes time feeling sorry for themselves, I know that they’re never going to make it.
Q: Who else do you spend a lot of time with?
Corcoran: My most profitable investments, and then I have to say Cousins Maine Lobster, my second most profitable- I spend my most time with them because they’re so good looking. The most profitable business I have is Grace and Lace- a women’s very sexy, lacy garment business. I would have never seen myself in a garment business but the husband and wife are phenomenal, I spend a lot of time with them. Both are great business people. I love Kim from Daisy Cakes because she’s such a charmer, so good on air. Her business profit is smaller than the rest but when she’s on air, the room lights up so I realize the commodity I have here. Pork Barrel Barbecue sauce, I spend a lot of time with those guys mostly because I think they have a unique marketing advantage. One of the partners looks exactly like a pig. I realized it that day on the set. I realized what a marketing advantage, managing a barbecue brand when there’s 50 million brands out there but nobody looks like a pig. I spend a lot of time with him because he’s got so much potential.
Q: Are you able to connect any of the brands?
Corcoran: Let me tell you something, they’re all close friends and that’s what I do better than any other shark. I made a family of all my people. I kind of pick out the same cut people, they’re all good people, honest and really hardworking and I take all of my successful entrepreneurs on a retreat every year, somewhere in the US or Mexico. They have their own board, they lean on each other, get compassion from one another, they exchange ideas not just on the retreat but in life. We have so much fun, drink way too much so they fall in love with each other.
Q: What are your favorite places in New York City?
Corcoran: I don’t go very far in New York, I have two kids, I’m at home a lot, I don’t have enough time with them as it is. I bike most mornings at Central Park around that big loop, I eat at restaurants within three blocks, and when someone invites me downtown I pretend I’m sick. I know that most of the good stuff is around there.
Q: So what are your hobbies?
Corcoran: I only have very few because I lack time but I really like what I have. I bike tremendously, ski and swim in the ocean that’s it. I always meant to learn to surf, I’ve been talking about it for 10 years but it ain’t going to happen now I realize. I’ve been learning how to snowboard, took one lesson and gave that up. I stick with the three that I love.
Q: Your favorite designers?
Corcoran: Narciso Rodriguez because he cuts a dress that looks good on anyone. I don’t care if you’re a hippy, flat chested, big chested, his dresses look great.
Q: At the end of the day, what really makes you happy?
Corcoran: I would say, right on top of my list, what makes me happy is change. I love change. I love change from changing the tulips on the table to finding a new plate for dinner on Friday nights to whose business am I going to invest in to are we going to move? I like anything that has a radical amount of change. I also love people. Give me change and people and I’m going to be happy.
For information about Barbara Corcoran’s inspiring book Shark Tales: How I Turned $1,000 into a Billion Dollar Business click here.
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