Real estate tycoon and reality-television angel-investor Barbara Corcoran has worn many hats throughout her career.
"I was a hot dog salesman, tent salesman, waitress seven or eight times," she recalls.
Real estate powerhouse and TV shark Corcoran has worked since she was 11 — always successfully.
"Posting the temperature charts at Holy Name Hospital for the nurses' cause I reversed the numbers. Not good. Thought I was killing the people in the cancer ward. I swear to God."
She had better success with the Corcoran Group, the residential real estate brokerage she built from scratch and sold for tens of millions of dollars.
She also writes books, gives motivational speeches and is featured in a long-running reality TV show.
Her drive stems in part from a disorder she has had since childhood: Dyslexia.
"I must succeed for myself because I don't want anyone to think I'm stupid," she said. "And so you think after all these years, I've had tremendous success, I would be secure on my feet but I still have at that core, that feeling like oh my God I might fail."
In New York, Corcoran’s name is synonymous with real estate listings.
Nationally, she is known as one of the angel investors on ABC's Shark Tank who listen to small business people pitch their ideas dreaming of seed money in return.
It’s a role that almost didn’t happen.
Days before she was scheduled to start shooting the first season in 2009, Corcoran was told that she would not be needed.
She emailed the executive producer, refusing to take no for an answer. It was vintage Barbara Corcoran.
"It was simply, someone had rejected me — as short, as sweet or ugly as that, and I was pissed."
Barbara Corcoran grew up in the 1950s and 60s in the then blue collar town of Edgewater, New Jersey, right across the river from New York, one of ten children.
She always loved working — because it was not school.
"When you can't pronounce the other words that others kids are reading readily and the kids are laughing at you or are shouting the wrong letter to you, or the wrong syllable to you, it's as painful as a child that I've never gotten over it," she said. "Honest to God, I'm sure of that. And so when I got out of school, I really decided that I'm going to prove once and for all that I am not stupid."
Corcoran recalls her mother always being on her feet, tending to her children.
Her father's reality was one of the reasons why she wanted to be her own boss.
"My father was fired every year of his life for insubordination he worked for a man and he would tell that guy — shove that job up where the sun don't shine. And we would say 'yeah dad' when he came home early because he was fired. But we looked at a man who hated working for another man and he had no options."
Corcoran graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas College in 1971 with a degree in Education.
She was two years out of school, working as a waitress when her life changed.
"When Ramon Simone walked in that fated night and I guess you'll edit this out, I knew I'd lose my virginity within the month. It took two months," she said. But when he walked in he said you'd be great in the real estate business. Why don't I give you a thousand dollars to start a business and I'll be your partner?
"And from that very first day hopping around New York City opening doors, I had found my calling."
Corcoran reasoned that if she were going to make it in the cut throat real estate business, she had to look the part.
"I took my first commission check which was $340 and I ran my ass over to Bergdorf Goodman's and I blew it on the fanciest coat I could find. And most people would say that's irresponsible. I thought it was entirely the right thing to do."
"I wore that coat for the next three years running around Manhattan. I felt like a fancy lady, I felt like I was a cool girl, I'm so cool. So it helped my confidence."
Corcoran’s relationship with her boyfriend lasted seven years — until, Corcoran says, he announced he was marrying their secretary.
There was more: Corcoran says he told her; "You'll never succeed without me."
But after they split the business, Corcoran built her half into a powerhouse in residential real estate.
Her fearlessness helped, like when she fought back against Donald Trump in 1994.
Furious over her comments in this New York magazine cover story, he withheld $4 million in commissions due her. A judge ordered Trump to pay up — in monthly installments of $55,000.
"I hand-delivered flowers to him with my handwritten note, 'Thank you for the check, Donald.'"
"And he sent those flowers right back, handwritten, I don't know if it was his writing. 'Rejected', sent them right back to me. And so I continued to send him flowers every month and they came back every month.
After taking her company to the top of the real estate game, she sold it in 2001, for $66 million.
"The very next day I went to my Citibank machine to get my usual $200 cash out and when I put in my thing I heard that sound that you hear. Out came my $200 but then my receipt came out and I had $44 million in my checking account."
"But I go to any Citibank machine any. And hear that I get that, almost like oh my God, I relive it again and again and again. It doesn't get old."
Her work on Shark Tank has brought her fame, and in the past year, notoriety when she tweeted:
"I find running a #business in a man’s world to be a huge advantage. I wear bright colors, yank up my skirt + get attention."
"The reaction I got from a lot of mothers, not young girls, but mothers of young girls, was outrage, sounds like you'd sleep with someone. That kind of thing."
"I was upset that people interpreted it that way because I am such a women's libber. Equal play, equal pay, but I really even more than that believe that if you are exceptionally gifted in any area and you want to win at business, you better play it up."
Corcoran and her husband former FBI agent Bill Higgins have been married for 34 years.
"I'm miserable to be married to, he gets the worst side of me. I'm very tough and demanding at home just like I am at work and that's not so good for Bill."
Her focus on work almost cost her opportunity to have a family. She did not become pregnant until her 40s.
"It took me seven years of in vitro, I was an in vitro champ. Like a boxer, hit me hit me again, and finally gave birth to Tommy. But I almost missed that show. If I had missed that show I would not be a happy older woman today."
She also has a younger daughter whom she adopted.
Corcoran shares some of the secrets to her success with her half-million followers on Twitter, such as:
"The essence of a great entrepreneur is the ability to bounce back... from anything!”
"All the big and great things were always a result of coming over some hump. So if I didn't have that who knows I would be back at the diner, successful at the diner, everyone liked me best on that counter but nonetheless who knows where I would be."