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Barbara Corcoran standing with her hands at her hips posing for the camera wearing a black top and jade jewelry

Shark Tank Entrepreneur Barbara Corcoran Proves Dyslexics Can Be Successful

Barbara Corcoran pointing toward the camera wearing a blue top and silver necklace

Barbara Corcoran

Rockville, Md., Oct. 3 – Barbara Corcoran is an American Business woman who started a real estate brokerage business at the age of 23. Famous for her TV personality on ABC’s Shark Tank as an entrepreneur and judge, she credits her determination and drive to her childhood diagnosis of dyslexia.

“When you cannot pronounce the other words that other 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 have never gotten over it. 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,” she said in an interview with Spectrum News NY1.

Hailing from Edgewater, New Jersey, Corcoran comes from a large family and is the second eldest of ten children, which taught her to interact with different personalities. In an interview with The New York Times she said: “Everybody’s got to mesh, so you get training early on for getting along with people. It’s a great advantage.”

Her successful journey in the employment industry began at the age of 11 where she would enjoy working after school hours. She held 22 jobs including being a hot dog stand lady and a waitress a couple of times before she got fed up of taking orders from people and decided to become her own boss. She started her own business The Corcoran Group in her early twenties.

“I didn’t even care what I was going to do for a living,” she said. “I just wanted to have my own thing.”

At the time, she had no experience but got a lucky break. “I met a man who after a couple of months became my very first boyfriend, who told me he thought I’d be great at real estate and said, how about I give you 1,000 dollars,” Corcoran said in an interview with People. She failed the Real Estate Brokerage exam three times but was persistent and eventually passed.

Decades later, she sold her company for $66 million in 2001 to NRT Incorporation, which is still one of the top notch real estate businesses in the country. She recently stared as one of the 13 couples on Season 25 of Dancing with the Stars and was eliminated after two weeks of competition.

Corcoran’s entrepreneurial spirit and goal-oriented attitude have made her a featured example of RespectAbility’s #RespectTheAbility campaign, which highlights successful entrepreneurs with disabilities, as well as companies that employ people with disabilities. An estimated 15 percent of business owners are people with disabilities.

Fully one-in-five Americans have a disability and polls show that most of them want to work. Yet 70 percent of working-age Americans with disabilities are outside of the workforce. Corcoran is proving that people with disabilities, with the right support, can change this statistic.

“I have an M.O. of constantly being nice and meaning it,” she said in an interview with People. “Because an odd thing happens when you’re nice to everyone – people like you. When people like you, they’re willing to follow you or entertain your idea.”

#RespectTheAbility Success Stories

Download our free toolkit, “Disability Employment First Planning Tool,” for more information.

Meet the Author

Zein Oweis

Zein Al Maha Oweis is a Communications Fellow at RespectAbility and a graduate of American University with a master's degree in broadcast journalism. She is visually impaired. She is intrigued by how powerful one’s voice can be used when telling a story and raising awareness. She wants to serve people with disabilities through communications and journalism.

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