Barbara Corcoran

The bubbly, self-proclaimed real estate queen founded the Corcoran Group in 1978 and sold her stake in 2001. These days she bops around as a columnist, pundit, and star on Shark Tank.

One of ten kids from a working-class Jersey family, Corcoran worked as a waitress, telephone operator, and flower delivery girl before founding a tiny rental agency in 1973 with a $1,000 loan from her boyfriend. Upgrading from rentals to co-ops, she launched the Corcoran Group in 1978, and although Corcoran herself had an undistinguished career selling property (she sold only three residences in more than three decades), she proved incredibly skillful when it came to recruiting and training sales talent. Over the course of two decades, she turned her agency into one of the biggest in the city, with more than 700 agents in 11 offices and annual revenues in excess of $4 billion. And as the agency expanded, Corcoran became known as one of New York real estate's more flamboyant figures, an image that paid off nicely when it came to building a brand in a notoriously bland industry. In 2001, just two days before Sept. 11th, Corcoran sold her company to Jersey-based real estate behemoth NRT for $66 million. She stayed on as chairman/figurehead for four years before leaving the company altogether in 2005.

Shortly after she quit her eponymous firm, Corcoran embarked on a mission to make herself a one-woman media brand in the mold of Oprah or Martha Stewart. Alas, her efforts haven't exactly panned out. The production company she founded in 2005, Barbara Corcoran Productions, filmed a pilot for a reality show (one which starred Babs, of course), but it failed to generate interest with the networks. She's gone on to make occasional appearances on shows like The View, Good Morning America, and the Today Show, and currently appears as a panelist on ABC's Shark Tank. In addition, Corcoran continues to work the lecture circuit and has penned columns in the Daily News, Redbook and More.

Corcoran published a 2003 memoir called If You Don't Have Big Breasts, Put Ribbons on Your Pigtails. (It was originally given the drier title Use What You've Got, but Corcoran decided to spice it up for the paperback edition after hardcover sales disappointed.) Her sophomore tome, Nextville, came out in 2008 with recommendations on places for people to live based on their "personality characteristics."

Barbara Corcoran