How Barbara Corcoran started a $66 million business with just a $1,000 loan from her ex

How Barbara Corcoran started a $66 million business with just a $1,000 loan from her ex

barbara corcoran

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She never could have dreamed what she'd achieve. Barbara Corcoran pictured.

  • Barbara Corcoran sold her real-estate company - The Corcoran Group - for $66 million in 2001.
  • She started the company in the 1970s, with a $1,000 loan from her ex-boyfriend and ex-business partner.
  • The keys to her success were being organized, being clever, and spending "every dollar like I was poor."

In the 1970s, Barbara Corcoran accepted a $1,000 loan from her then-boyfriend to start a real-estate business with him. She never could have dreamed she'd sell that business for $66 million in 2001.

Originally, the business was called Corcoran-Simone company. (Her then-boyfriend's name was Ramone Simone.) But when Simone announced he was leaving Corcoran for her secretary, Corcoran split off part of the business into the Corcoran Group.

On an episode of Business Insider's podcast, "Success! How I Did It," Corcoran told US editor-in-chief Alyson Shontell how she stretched that $1,000 to the max (which is now more like $5,000 adjusting for inflation).

Corcoran didn't come from a wealthy family - she grew up one of 10 kids in a two-bedroom house with one bathroom. But Corcoran remembered her mother being incredibly organized - her mother ran the family "like a boot camp" - and Corcoran channeled that energy in her career.

Once she split with Simone, Corcoran said, she bought a three-line advertisement in The New York Times. She went back to her old boss at a real-estate agency and requested one of his listings to advertise; he gave her the unit next to the super's apartment.

The apartment had an L-shaped living room and a small bedroom, "like every other apartment in New York," Corcoran remembered. She noticed that most other New York Times ads for similar apartments read, "One bedroom 320 month," "One bedroom 330 a month," and so on.

So she got creative. Corcoran had a wall built in the apartment and advertised it as "1 BR Plus Den: 340."

"I probably got 80 phone calls that next morning," Corcoran said. "Within the first two days I had a check for $340."

Years later, when Corcoran's business was worth millions and its ranks had grown, she still never abandoned that mindset.

Corcoran said, "Even until I sold my business, when I had a thousand people strong as sales agents, I still used the exact same methodology. I was always running against the clock thinking, 'Well, at least I have nine months now, I have 10 months now,' and carefully keep my overhead and spend every dollar like I was poor."