By Karen Bryant
When Kate and Clay Gutierrez met in November 2011, they likely had no clue it would be the beginning of a lifelong personal and professional partnership.
The two, who were married in 2016, own and operate Elite Coastal Realty, a full-service brokerage firm that specializes in new construction of concrete homes; Concrete Building Concepts, the largest custom concrete home builder on the Coast; and Guardian Wall Systems, which manufactures transportable precast concrete wall panels that it distributes to the entire country.
“It is the only transportable wall system in the Unites States that we know of,” Kate says.
Kate was born and raised in Woodstock, Illinois, but says, “I never felt that it was my home, and at the young age of 21, I ventured out searching for a new place to call home.”
When she arrived on the Coast in 1997, she knew immediately this was where she wanted to live.
“The warm Southern people and communities are what I was searching for,” she says.
Clay, however, has always lived on the Coast. He was born and raised in Biloxi to a family that has had deep roots in the community for generations. And the Gutierrez family is no stranger to entrepreneurship.
“He and his family have owned several businesses locally, including Cold Storage; Killer Bee Bait; and Global Seafood, which was the largest seafood processing plant in the U.S. prior to Katrina,” Kate says.
The two met via the internet. They discovered that they shared many interests like boating, hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities.
“Our home life and work style were very similar, which was the foundation for building our wonderful marriage,” Kate says.
It also was the foundation for their successful enterprises. Clay started Concrete Building Concepts after Hurricane Katrina in 2007, and his company was the builder for a subdivision in Gulfport and held an office within the subdivision.
“When a position opened in 2012 to sell the homes, I immediately interviewed with the developer and secured the position; I believed in the product and Clay’s vision of building a stronger, safer, more energy-efficient home,” Kate recalls. She outsold any employee who had worked before her and realized that she had found her new profession.
After finishing their commitment in the subdivision, they moved their offices to their manufacturing facility in Biloxi. Kate continued her education in real estate and became a broker.
“We were now able to help our clients by selling their existing home, buying a piece of land and building a concrete house all under one roof,” she says. Establishing the real estate firm allowed Kate to produce income independent of the other businesses, giving the couple a more diverse income portfolio.
Living and working together has its challenges, but Kate says Clay has a perpetually upbeat attitude that keeps her spirits high. The two genuinely enjoy their work and consider it a perk to spend many hours in the workplace with the one each loves the most.
Plus, they rely on and trust each other.
“We push each other to do better and be better all the time,” Kate says. “We are our own worst and best critics, and the honest feedback always pushes us to be better. We have created homey, comfortable, independent offices, and [we have] a full kitchen where we can enjoy dinner together and with family.”
And the couple never misses having lunch together.
“During that time, we separate work from our home life,” Kate says. “We are able to talk about family, friends and events.”
They are now working on a big personal project together. After years of creating beautiful homes for others, they are building a dream home of their own.
“For years we have dreamed of owning a concrete home; however, the dreams of others always came before ours,” Kate says. “We recently hired an employee to handle an architecture department, allowing us the access to tools that they used to design homes, and we began to design our own home.”
The home is being built in D’Iberville on the Tchoutacabouffa River on a parcel that is part of land Elite Coastal Realty has acquired and plans to subdivide into lots to sell. The home incorporates the couple’s favorite design elements, and Kate describes it as an open-concept house with a large, walk-in pantry, large master closet, lots of large windows to take advantage of the view and porches that allow Kate and Clay to enjoy the beautiful waters they both love.
It may take awhile to complete the project, but that’s okay by Kate.
“We love the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” she says, “and intend to remain here the rest of our days.”