Where Was Barbara Corcoran A Waitress? Before 'Shark Tank,' She Worked Her Way To The Top Of NYC Real Estate

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 25: Barbara Corcoran speaks on stage at NAPW 2014 Conference - Day 2 on April 25, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Brian Ach/Getty Images for National Association of Professional Women)
Source: Brian Ach/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

I totally want to be like Shark Tank's Barbara Corcoran when I grow up. I want to be cool and levelheaded when I have to weigh options presented to me. I want to be fair and even-keeled. I want to be the Shark that everyone wants to make deals with. So, how can I follow in her footsteps? How did Barbara Corcoran get her start, putting her on the path to becoming the best Shark on Shark Tank?

Corcoran wasn't born with a silver spoon in her mouth and an inheritance that would've let her dabble in anything and everything. Instead, her childhood in Edgewater, N.J. was a lot more modest. She was the second-oldest of 10 children, the Daily News reports. "As a child, Barbara slept in the girls' room with her six sisters while her brothers shared the boys' room," the paper writes. "Her parents slept on the living room couch."

And it's not like she was an amazing student, either. (On that, I have her beat.) She told Inc. that she did poorly in school and never talked in class. "I developed my gift of gab outside the classroom," she says. "I never spoke up in school, so I had all of these words I had to get out." 

Here, Corcoran's path from bad student to deadly Shark.

She Started Off As A Waitress

[Twitter Embed: https://twitter.com/BarbaraCorcoran/statuses/560473533844029440]

And not the ritzy kind, either, where you can make a ton in tips and be introduced to an important clientele. According to New York magazine, Corcoran was waitress at the Fort Lee Diner while maintaining her D average as a senior at St. Thomas Aquinas college. "It was new and unaccredited." she says of the college. "I didn't want to marry, have babies, and stay in Edgewater. The nuns thought I was nice. So they took me."

She Made Her First Business Deal For $1,000

[Twitter Embed: https://twitter.com/BarbaraCorcoran/statuses/562338645710225408]

Even though it wasn't the place to see and be seen, Corcoran did meet someone important while working at the diner: Ramon Simone, who would become both her boyfriend and her first business partner when she decided she wanted to open a Manhattan real estate agency. "He gave her an initial $1,000 investment," Business Insider reports. "They split the company with Simone getting 51% and Corcoran getting the other 49%." The boyfriend did not stick around, but the business did. I wonder: If Corcoran looked back on that transaction from her seat on the Shark Tank panel, would she think it was a fair deal? In any case, it worked out well for her.

She Made Her Business A Fun Place To Work

[Twitter Embed: https://twitter.com/BarbaraCorcoran/statuses/562344279670927360]

Growing from that $1,000 seed money to one of the biggest real-estate firms in Manhattan took a keen business sense — and more. The Corcoran Group became known as a workplace with lots of bells, whistles, and perks. There were parties, in-office massages, and horse-show-style ribbon to recognize people's achievements, according to Entrepreneur. "I found the more fun I created in the company, the more creative and innovative it became," she told the magazine. "That was the big kahuna—the fun piece. That's what built that culture upside down and inside out. You got innovation. You got loyalty. You got people who would recruit for you." As I sit here writing this while working from home (alone), I still think I want to pin a ribbon on myself, even if there's no one to see it.

It Worked!

[Twitter Embed: https://twitter.com/BarbaraCorcoran/statuses/560566392010059778]

From that $1,000, the D-student waitress built a real estate empire (the first woman-owned one in NYC) that she sold for $66 million in 2001 — and now she gets to fund other businesses through Shark Tank. And that's why I want to follow in her footsteps. To the diner!

Must Reads