Childhood & Early Life
Barbara Ann Corcoran was born on March 10, 1949, in Edgewater, New Jersey, U.S., to Irish Catholic parents. She was the second of the 10 kids in her lower-middle-class family. She grew up with her four brothers and five sisters.
She credits her mother, Florence, as her mentor in life. She has also stated that her mother took great care of all her children almost single-handedly. The family survived amidst poor circumstances, as Barbara’s father was a semi-employed alcoholic man who did not care much about his family. However, she also once said that he was a “funny man” who would keep the family entertained.
Surviving adversities, Barbara grew up as a strong-willed young woman. She credited her mother for her hard-working nature. She desperately aspired to grow out of her circumstances and carve her own way to a rich lifestyle. However, she struggled to score good grades in school.
She initially attended a local Catholic elementary school in New Jersey and later joined the ‘St. Cecilia High School’ in Englewood. Following her freshman year, she dropped out of school. One of the reasons for her underperformance in school was her struggle with dyslexia. Her condition also made it hard for her to concentrate on studies. She thus ended up scoring straight Ds in school. She also found it difficult to hold her interest in subjects and ended up changing many schools.
She finally completed her high-school graduation from the ‘Leonia High School’ and moved to Sparkill, New York, to pursue her higher education from the ‘St. Thomas Aquinas College.’ It was a liberal arts college and was not even close to the best in the city. She graduated with a degree in education in 1971. Soon after this, she began working.
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She started working in different sectors immediately after graduating college. She took up odd jobs, working as a receptionist, a waitress, and a saleswoman. She saved a lot of money, doing about 10 jobs in the next 2 to 3 years. However, she never stuck to a particular industry. Nevertheless, in the 1970s, she knew that the real-estate market was flourishing in New York City.
Her then-boyfriend, Ray Simone, worked as a builder. She had met him while working as a waitress at a restaurant in New York City. She expressed her desire to work in the real-estate business when he told her about its income-generating prospects. They decided to launch a real-estate company together. The company was formed in 1973, and they named it ‘The Corcoran-Simone.’
Simone invested $1000 in the company. It was initially an apartment-locator company. Many people from across the country were moving to New York back in the 1970s. Thus, the business flourished. They connected with various realtors and builders and helped people find apartments based on their needs and income.
While working there, Barbara also constantly looked for other ways to earn money. Once, while he was showing an apartment to an engineer, the wealthy engineer offered to buy the apartment instead of renting it. This was the first sale Barbara made. With this, the company registered a commission of $3000. Barbara found this more alluring than what she had been doing and convinced Simone to switch from providing rented apartments to selling them.
She posted ads in newspapers such as ‘The New York Times,’ looking for salesmen She spent a lot of money on hiring new sales agents, and within 2 years of its creation, the company started raking in huge profits. With Barbara doing most of the work, she also took most of the management decisions herself.
By 1975, the company had hired 14 salesmen and paid them handsome salaries. The company also registered a profit of about $500,000. It was slowly becoming one of the fastest-growing real-estate companies in New York. However, the partners split up suddenly. Reportedly, Simone had started dating another woman back then, which eventually led Barbara to break up with him. She thus decided to become the sole owner of the company.
The process of dividing the company took many years. By 1978, Barbara had become the sole owner of the company. The new company thus formed was named ‘The Corcoran Group’ and was the first woman-owned real-estate company in New York City. In the first year of her solo ownership, the company earned $3,50,000 in sales, with a workforce of seven sales agents.
In the 1990s, she switched to online operations and began selling on the internet. Her ability to sense opportunities in advance made her switch to the internet before any other realtor in the city could. She also purchased many web domains to be able to sell them later when her competitors would decide to switch to the internet. However, she said she was not doing this for profits but to be able to be constantly aware of her competition and to be in their good books.
By the early 2000s, ‘The Corcoran Group’ had registered a staggering success in the real-estate arena. The company had a workforce of 850 people and had earned more than $100 million as net profits. However, the company was far behind many major players in the real-estate arena. Many real-estate companies decided to buy ‘The Corcoran Group,’ and it was eventually sold off to ‘NRT Inc.,’ a New Jersey-based firm.
They offered to buy the company for $20 million, but Barbara asked for $66 million, as 66 was her lucky number. The sale was closed within 2 weeks in 2001.
She also entered the publishing arena. In the 1970s, she published a real-estate newsletter called ‘The Corcoran Report.’ It covered the latest real-estate trends in New York City.
She then authored a book called ‘If You Don’t Have Big Breasts, Put Ribbons on Your Pigtail.’ In the mid-2000s, she began her TV career, appearing as a political commentator on ‘Fox News.’ She also appeared as a real-estate contributor on many shows.
She also appeared as a contestant on the reality show ‘Shark Tank’. While working on the show, she had invested in 22 businesses. The show showcased several fresh entrepreneurs making presentations in front of investors to convince them into investing in their businesses.
She has also appeared on the reality show ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and a TV series named ‘Grace and Frankie.’
Family & Personal Life
Barbara Corcoran broke up with her boyfriend, Ray Simone, after he stated he was going to marry his secretary.
In 1988, Barbara married Bill Higgins, a retired navy captain. She tried having children, but it seemed they had fertility issues. She gave birth to a boy named Tom through in-vitro fertilization in 1994. She also adopted a child a few years later.
She currently lives with her husband in Manhattan.