Entrepreneur

Can Barbara Corcoran Convince the New Generation of Entrepreneurs to Follow Her Lead?

When Barbara Corcoran invests in a startup, founders gain a fully engaged partner with lots of outsize opinions. The only question is: Will they listen?
Source: Jill Greenberg

It's a bright morning in October, and Barbara Corcoran is sitting in her street-level headquarters, a converted doctor’s office on upper Park Avenue in New York City, trying to convince Jen and Jeff Martin to wear popcorn bags on their heads. 

The Martins, a brother-and-sister team, are the founders of Pipsnacks, one of the fastest-growing companies in Corcoran’s portfolio. Their original product is the mini-popcorn snack Pipcorn -- crunchy, largely hull-less and sold in seven flavors, including the much-beloved truffle. The Martins launched the company six years ago and had their big breakthrough in 2014, when they appeared before Corcoran and the other sharks on the ABC prime-time reality series Shark Tank, nabbing a $200,000 investment from her in exchange for 10 percent of the company.

Related: Barbara Corcoran on the 5 Traits All Successful Entrepreneurs Share

Since then, growth has exploded. Pipcorn is now available around the country, in Whole Foods, Target and numerous other outlets. The farmer who supplies their kernels has granted them exclusive rights to his crop. They’ve begun outsourcing some of the manufacturing work to a contract packager, allowing them to ramp up production at a moment’s notice. Margins are solid at around 50 percent, and the business is steadily profitable, having grown by 2,000 percent since the company’s Shark Tank appearance. 

Over the course of an hour-long catch-up meeting, the Martins -- he, 32, with a Jimmy Neutron pompadour and thick-framed glasses, and she, 29, with a formidable mane of curly brown hair -- rattle off sales figures and delve into the nuances of SKUs and shelf space. They discuss the ins and outs of Costco versus ShopRite versus independent New York bodegas and delis. And they gripe about a big-time snack-food distributor that has been spotted elbowing Pipcorn bags out of sight to better showcase a crunchy rival

Corcoran, sporting her trademark pixie cut and clad in Chuck Taylor sneakers, a cashmere sweater (both canary yellow) and a pair of skinny jeans, takes it all. “That’s not easy when dealing with entrepreneurs.”

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