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Her first-job salary was Beanie Babies

posted May 1, 2015, 4:24 PM by Joyce Evans
You may know Kate Gillingham of Coronado for her recent honor as a recipient of a 2015 “30 Under 30” award from the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR).
The 27-year-old PSAR member was one of 400 applicants for this year’s award. Among NAR’s 1.1 million membership, an estimated members are under age 30 and eligible to be nominated for the award.
An independent panel of judges paired the applicants from 400 to 100 to 50. Criteria included sales production, business management, leadership, involvement in the community and support for the local Association. Then, for the 50 finalists, REALTORS® across the country participated in the process by casting online votes from March 20 to 27. NAR announced the winners on March 30.
“It is a tremendous privilege to have been chosen for this award,” said Kate. “I will cherish this honor for my entire career.”
But did you know when Kate, as a 10-year-old, helped her father Dave at their family-owned real estate office by answering the phone, her salary consisted of Beanie Babies?
Launched in the mid-1990s by Ty Warner, Beanie Babies were a popular brand of plush, stuffed animal collectibles that were stuffed with plastic pellets, or beans, that gave a flexible feel to such Beanie Babies as Legs the Frog, Squealer the Pig and Spot the Dog.
“I loved my Beanie Babies,” said Kate. “I still have a few of them.”
A 2005 Coronado High School graduate, Kate was named MVP of her swimming and diving team, which went to the CIF playoffs her senior year. She also competed in cheerleading and her team qualified to compete at the World Championship. Throughout high school, Kate worked part-time at her family’s real estate and development firm, Coronado Island Realty.
“I learned so much about real estate from shadowing my dad,” said Kate. “I wanted to start showing property but couldn’t until I first got my license. So, at 18, I started taking the practice tests and failed every one of them, with lower scores than the time before. The night before the actual test, I told my dad that I didn’t have a good feeling. Guess I was wrong.”
Kate said her father, with more than 40 years of experience in real estate, has been a tremendous mentor. “I know that I’m one of the youngest agents in a saturated market,” said Kate. “My dad has taught me to trust my instincts and also that true knowledge is gained by experiences. He also reminds me regularly that since people won’t take me seriously until I have gray hair, I have to surpass their expectations by having exceptional service and knowledge of the marketplace. If I surpass my clients’ expectations, then they will not only want to work with me again but also will tell their friends about me.”
Kate may be the youngest person in Coronado to have ever obtained a California broker’s license. But that achievement, in 2012, when she was 24, is expected to be just one of many “firsts” for this enterprising young woman.
Kate attended University of San Diego’s prestigious Burnham-Moores School of Real Estate, headed by Dr. Mark Riedy, a former president/COO of Fannie-Mae. In 2011, Dr. Riedy invited Kate to serve on the university’s Real Estate Alumni Association. She currently serves as board chair. Among its many endeavors, the Alumni Association coordinates a mentorship program for undergraduate real estate majors, raises money for scholarships and volunteers at the Monarch School, a school for homeless kids in Downtown San Diego.
Kate has a future goal for making her own personal impact in the real estate industry. “I might not be popular, but I believe it should be harder to become a REALTOR®,” she said. “Earning my license meant I could sell office parks and shopping centers and manage property, none of which I knew very much about. To be a realtor, it should require more than taking online courses and passing a test.”
Kate wants to change California law and make a college degree mandatory before earning a real estate license. “That’s one way how we can raise the bar and enhance our reputation as REALTORS® among consumers on a level comparable with lawyers and CPAs,” she said. “I know it will take a phased-in approach, but I think it’s a key to ensuring the long-term success of our profession.”
In her spare time, Kate is currently solving last-minute details for her wedding date on Sunday, May 24. She will marry Brett Milke, a teacher for disabled students in the Sweetwater Union High School District.
Brett previously held the Coronado High School record for most points scored in a basketball game. Who broke the record? Answer: Kate’s cousin Matt. “They still are making jokes at each other about that record,” said Kate. “Matt set the record in an overtime game, while Brett set his record in a regulation game. So, Brett reminds Matt about it and says he still deserves the glory.”
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-- Don’t forget to read next week’s story. Hint: She founded a parent’s organization that promoted greater parent involvement in the public schools.