Barbara Corcoran is one of the most successful business people in the world. Known as the “Queen of New York Real Estate,” Barbara started her real estate business with a $1,000 loan at the age of 23. Through her people-skills, creativity and hard work, Barbara developed that small, initial investment into a $6 billion business. In addition to being a master of entrepreneurship, Barbara is also an author, podcaster, investor, inspirational speaker, and an avid user of TikTok.
Of course, most people know her as the spunky, no-nonsense Shark from the popular ABC show, Shark Tank. This last role is the reason I had the privilege of interviewing Barbara Corcoran and learning more about her “secret sauce for success,” and how creativity has played a vital role in her journey!
As you may know, Sparketh debuted on current season of Shark Tank (Season 13, Episode 3)! During their presentation, Sparketh Co-founders Tim Samuel and Dwayne Walker impressed the judges with their passion and vision. However, there was some debate about whether or not the company could become profitable enough for the Sharks to invest in.
Barbara Corcoran – alongside guest Shark, Daniel Lubetzky (of the KIND empire) – offered Sparketh’s dynamic duo a rare contingency deal. They agreed to mentor the Sparketh co-founders and make an investment $100, 000 in exchange for 20% of Sparketh if the business can prove profitability within a 6 month window.
Whether or not Sparketh proves to be profitable within this time frame, Tim and Dwayne have each expressed gratitude for the experience of being on Shark Tank, and – even more so – for Barbara and Daniel’s mentorship and belief in their vision.
In a recent interview, VP Tim Samuel said, “Once we saw that these successful people were willing to invest in it (Sparketh), it really made it click for us and made us realize that this is a valuable business.”
CEO Dwayne Walker added, “As an entrepreneur, you sacrifice so much hoping that people will see your vision. It does bring validation to have someone like that believe in you.”
Why Barbara Believes in Sparketh
Corcoran was the first Shark to jump in and offer Tim and Dwayne support for Sparketh (after several others had already pronounced themselves, “Out”), so I asked what prompted her to make the first offer.
Barbara responded: “I was hooked on Tim and Dwayne from the get go! I was looking for any reason to invest in these two entrepreneurs. Tim & Dwayne were likable and hard workers, having overcome all sorts of obstacles – health and business related – to build Sparketh.”
Perhaps due to her own personal experiences building a business empire from almost nothing, Corcoran has a history of investing in entrepreneurs who have built their businesses up by their bootstraps and found creative solutions when faced with hardship. She famously told a pair of brothers on a previous season of Shark Tank that she “doesn’t invest in rich kids,” later indicating that she believes an entrepreneur is more likely to strive – and succeed – without a safety net.
When talking about Tim and Dwayne, Barbara stated that she admired their willingness to take on challenges. “They were game to take on the contingency of reaching profitability to earn our investment,” she said. “Any entrepreneur willing to face that challenge head-on is destined for success.”
Barbara Corcoran on the Power of Creativity
At Sparketh, we believe that creativity means something slightly different to each person who recognizes its power in his or her life. As many entrepreneurs will tell you, creativity is also vital in the world of business. I asked Barbara about what creativity means to her and what role it has played in her life. She responded:
“I was labeled the dumb kid in school because I couldn’t read or write. But from a young age, my mom made sure I knew my biggest strength was my imagination. My imagination took me further than book smarts ever could. I learned to use my creativity in business and it was the secret sauce to my success.”
Corcoran elaborated on creativity’s role in business, talking about how creativity can shape a person’s ability to make necessary changes. She stated, “Building a business means solving problem after problem until you find something that sticks. And the best way to work through an obstacle is to get creative. The best businesses are run by entrepreneurs who think outside the box and find new ways of doing things.”
This is a philosophy that she passes along to the many entrepreneurs she invests in and mentors. Corcoran told me, “When Covid hit, I called each of my entrepreneurs and told them to make a list of everywhere their business had come from in the past. Then I told them to rip it up. In every business change is inevitable, but only businesses who know how to innovate fast and creatively survive.”
How Barbara Stays Creative and Keeps Things Fun
Barbara shared some insights on how she personally stays creative in her work (and life). She admitted, “I never had a creative idea sitting at my desk!” Instead, Corcoran advised, “The best way to get creative is to go play in the traffic. The best ideas are found on the outside when you’re out on the field having fun.”
Corcoran is well-known for keeping things fun in the workplace. “Fun is good for business!” Barabara said, adding that: “Fun builds loyalty, and teams are most creative when they’re having fun.”
One of the ways that Barbara keeps things fun at work? Social media! Barbara’s TikTok channel is full of examples of how this business icon connects with her audience via the playful social media platform.
In our interview, she shared some other ways that she brings fun into the workplace environment. Corcoran said, “At work I make time for company parties and retreats that make for fun Monday morning conversations. And I always plan my vacations far in advance because I’ve learned that half the fun is looking forward to it!”
It seems that Barbara finds creativity and fun in even the little moments of the day. For example, Barbara told me, “I love to listen to Queen or Bob Marley to get my head on straight!”
Barbara’s Tips for Succeeding as an Entrepreneur
Of course, we’d probably all like to know what Barbara’s secrets to success are when it comes to business. We often place so much emphasis on becoming successful. I wanted to know Barbara’s tips for staying successful as an entrepreneur. How do you keep a solid momentum going?
She responded, “You’ve got to get comfortable taking risks and keep your ambition running every step of the way. But the most important quality is the ability to bounce back from failure.” Barbara said, “Think of yourself as a Jack In The Box. When you take a hit, bounce right back up shouting, ‘Hit me again!'”
I also asked if Barbara had any specific tips for kids who use our online arts education platform at Sparketh. What advice would she share with the kid or teen who wants to do something different with their life — such as becoming a professional artist and/or entrepreneur?
“Figure out who you want to be and picture it in living color,” Barbara responded. “When I started my business, I knew I wanted to be the Queen of New York Real Estate. I dreamt about it every day, picturing every little detail, until it became my reality.”
Interview by Kathryn Gustafson