Polly Katherine Hilton

Shark Tank’s Barbara Corcoran on the Smartest Investment You Can Make

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It's a rare afternoon in Manhattan when you get to share the same air with a woman as powerful and as articulate as millionaire Barbara Corcoran.  Best known for her firecracker personality and smart investments on ABC’s hit Shark Tank, I count myself lucky to have had the opportunity to get to know the woman behind the national best-selling book, If You Don’t Have Big Breasts, Put Ribbons On Your Pigtails (an unlikely-titled business book that every female entrepreneur should add to her library).  While endorsing an up-and-coming financial wellness platform, Zebit, Corcoran addressed a room full of eager women by relaying helpful hints, charming anecdotes and how-to’s for avoiding financial missteps and stress.  Corcoran, along with Zebit founder Michael Thiemann, have deemed the month of March as ‘Financial Stress Awareness Month’, citing that women and millennials are particularly susceptible to the pitfalls and hazards of financial stress such as credit card debt, looming student loans, and physical ailments.  Over the course of the afternoon, I found myself empowered by Corcoran’s success story and the idea that awareness and proactivity lead to a healthy and happy bank account.

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About Getting Started

You know her.  You love her.  But do you know exactly how she managed to become the millionaire and television personality she is today?  By utilizing grit, ingenuity and imagination — that’s how.  Corcoran grew up in a typical Catholic family as one of many: ‘Walk in my shoes for a minute.  I’m at school with nine brothers and sisters and I spend my whole day just dreaming.  I daydream about stuff I do well, which is rooted in imagination.  By the time I was in my twenties, I had twenty-three jobs.  I was a people person and I made networking work for me.  New York was exploding and I was in the heart of it.  I was a chump in school, but a champ outside… the lesson to be learned from my experience is that all kids are different.  You use your drive to pursue your dream… I say it to poke fun, but the three dyslexic kids in my family are all rich, and the conventional ones are not.  Every kid is different and that’s good.  Do work differently.’ 

About Investments

Today, Corcoran sits at the top of an investment empire, citing that ‘taking chances almost always makes for happy endings.’  When asked about the smartest investment a woman can make to set herself up for financial success, she smiled knowingly.  ‘The best investment you can ever make is in yourself… Be hungry to build yourself up and believe in your business because you are your own moneymaker.  No one else.  When people come to me and ask where they should put their money, I immediately ask where their business could use it.  The most useful use for your money is in your own big dreams.’

Corcoran went on to detail specifics about how she had utilized this methodology both when she was just getting started and when looking at investors on Shark Tank.  ‘I created my real estate business with a start-up of only $1,000 [a loan from her boyfriend], and I turned it into so much more by going for it… When I see someone come on the show, who really has that attitude of being all in — smart people, but all in — I listen.’

I found myself, being mowed over like a little piece of grass by the men in the room.

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About Having It All

Corcoran is the ideal example of a bSmart woman who balances it all.  From her notoriety on television, to her various investment endeavors, to her happy home life, at 67 years young, she is an inspiration.  In this same light, one of the more prolific and interesting questions she answered that afternoon was how motherhood had changed her as a business owner and boss.  Her answer was both inspiring and honest.  ‘I felt insecure about having children, but when it happened it put my life in a wonderful sort of aggravated balance.  Every employee working for me said I was softer, kinder.  Not that I had been an a**hole before mind you!  But from the age of 23-46, work was my baby, and my time and energy reflected that.  I used to be the first person in the office at 7:00 or 7:30 AM, walking around and putting to-do post-its on people’s desks, cleaning up, and getting ahead.  When my baby came along, all that changed.  I enjoyed the walk to pre-school even if it got me into work significantly later.  And ultimately, I sold my business.  Now, people — women — ask me if I had chosen to have kids earlier, if I think I could still have managed to build what I’ve built.  And my answer, like it or not, is no.  No.  I couldn’t have.’ 

Corcoran followed up by saying everyone balances work and home differently, and what works for one woman is not the gospel for all women.  But even so, in an age that still puts pressure on a young woman’s choice of when is right for her to have children (if at all), it was empowering to see an example like Corcoran who truly has managed to have it all even while defying societal norms.          

About Shark Tank 

Corcoran couldn’t take the floor for more than 30 seconds without someone bringing up the monstrous fish in the room: Shark Tank.  Corcoran’s current bread and butter, Shark Tank is a television show that centers around a panel of ‘sharks’ or high-rolling, business savvy investors, presented with pitch after pitch of new products and services of which they can invest and make deals.  Products have included everything from clothing lines, to up-and-coming apps, to holistic remedies and food products, to the internet sensation ‘I Want To Draw A Cat for You’ (look it up).  Now in season 7, the show has garnered accolades and quite a following, but as Corcoran would tell you, it wasn’t always smooth sailing on the voyage to Shark Tank.    

‘When I initially heard about the show I thought it sounded amazing.  I was recruited and signed the contract without even reading it.  Three days before I was supposed to fly out to LA to begin taping — I had just bought a new wardrobe from Bergdorf Goodman — the producers contacted me and said they had decided at the last minute to go with a different shark, and I would be the fallback if something else went wrong.  I was devastated.  For me, the word fallback was worse than rejection.  Way worse.  So in that moment, I decided to be bold.  I wrote the producers a rejection email literally saying that rejection is my good luck charm and from my greatest rejections have come most of my multi-million dollar successes — so thanks for the good luck charm!  I learned later that out of the 60 rejections they sent, all to men, I was the only person who had the guts to respond and write an email back standing up for myself.  Of course, it ended up working out and now I’m a shark, but it wasn’t without that email, that step of bravery.’

Having spent years in business prior to her experience on Shark Tank, Corcoran was asked what her biggest challenge has been as a female entrepreneur, financial advisor and businesswoman.  In spite of all the challenges she has faced in working for herself, her answer still went back to her most current success.

‘For the first two seasons of Shark Tank I was more afraid than I have ever been in my life.  People ask if that was fear of making a bad investment, and that was not the cause at all.  I was afraid of not being heard.  For those who don’t know, we tape the show in ten-hour increments.  They are long days.  I found myself, being mowed over like a little piece of grass by the men in the room.  My credentials didn’t matter, my intelligence didn’t matter — I couldn’t get a word in.  So those first two seasons, I look like a really polite secretary to the other guys.  It wasn’t until I started asking myself what a man would do in my shoes that I felt like I was able to be heard.  While that in and of itself isn’t okay — having to parallel everything you say and do to what men say and do — it got me shouting.  That’s what got me heard.’ 

I was afraid of not being heard.

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About Zebit

Designed to specifically aid against financial stress, Zebit, as attested by founder and CEO Michael Thiemann, is a real solution.  Endorsed by Corcoran, who lent her expertise in explaining the values and impact of such a model, Zebit is a free financial benefit employers can utilize to help their employees make smarter financial choices and ultimately, minimize workplace stress to foster a more productive environment.  Available both online and as an app, Zebit boasts features such as interactive financial training, instant budgeting, personalized ‘Zebitscore’ analysis for financial growth, and a marketplace filled with quality products that can be paid for via Zebitline, a plan that has no interest, hidden fees, or credit check.  Sounds too good to be true, right?  Well this amazing option exists, and thanks to the endorsement of Corcoran, is quickly on the rise.        

To learn more about Zebit and all of its game-changing offerings, check out the website here.  To see Corcoran in action, tune into Shark Tank Fridays at 9:00 PM on ABC.  I, for one, can’t wait to see what this inspiring woman invests in next!  

 

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