Shark Tank

How Barbara Corcoran went from a 2-bedroom flat to a penthouse on Fifth Avenue

For Barbara Cocoran, the road to success was paved with humble roots and heartbreak. Born in the factory town of Edgewater, NJ, she and her nine siblings all shared a room in her parents' 2-bedroom flat, a far cry from her life now as a self-made millionaire. Cocoran says, "I have to pinch myself at times to make sure it's all real because everything I dreamt about from the time I was a little kid to now has come true for me."

With the savvy and smarts Cocoran shows on the panel, you'd never guess that she was a straight D-student her entire childhood, and mis-labeled as a dumb kid, due to undiagnosed dyslexia. This hardship drives Cocoran to this day, as she is always trying to prove her intellect.

After working 22 jobs, a waitressing job was the one that made Cocoran rich. A customer who soon became her boyfriend and business partner noticed Cocoron's great personality. He pointed out that she'd be great in real estate and as we all know now, he was right.

Within two years Cocoran's company had 14 agents and a half million dollars in sales, but while business was booming, her personal life took a turn for the worse. Five years in, Cocoran's boyfriend and business partner announced he was marrying her secretary. He told Cocoran, "You'll never succeed without me." But she proved him wrong and then some.

By 2001, The Cocoran Group had more sales than any other competitor in New York City, meaning Cocoran's dream of becoming the queen of New York real estate came true. Unfortunately, her success brought more problems. She was competing against giant companies owned by men, facing the boys club head on. But instead of letting this stop her, Corcoran saw being a woman in business as a great asset. "I was different than the old guys I was competing with." That difference separated her from the rest and ultimately made her business ever more successful.

These days the two-bedroom flat ..and rough neighborhood might be long behind her, but Cocoran will never forget her humble beginnings. With a penthouse on Fifth Avenue, Cocoran can see the town she grew up in from her terrace, and is fully aware of her fortune. "You never know what life brings. Pretty remarkable."

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