CRE N Illinois

Krusinski's Catherine Mulrenin finds an unconventional path into real estate

Krusinski's Katie Mulrenin discusses her unconventional start in real estat,ph01
Katie Mulrenin with her sister Beth and nephews Ryan and Luke.

Chicago-native Katie Mulrenin, Client Director at Krusinski Construction, got an unconventional start in the real estate industry—it began with her mother waking her up with a splash of cold water.

Mulrenin was 18 and her mother pulled her out of bed to fill in for a temp position at Terrestris Development. The person originally hired for the position bailed last minute and Mulrenin agreed to help since it was just for the day. That one day eventually turned into 14 years.

She started a full-time position at Terrestris and went from answering phones to working as the director of operations. When she started at the company, she planned to stay and save money for school. However, it turned out first-hand experience, and a paycheck, was better than any classroom. At Terrestris she was able to take real estate classes, meet key people in the industry, attend investor meetings and plan commission reviews.

Mulrenin said she'd never trade her experience at Terrestris. In fact, she wishes she could find the person who ditched the job and thank them. For Mulrenin, her work was more than just a job. Her coworkers were like a family and she credits Dennis Cortesi, a top principal at the company, for helping her figure out her place in the industry and in life. Cortesi passed away in December, Mulrenin said, and she was really grateful for his guidance. Not only did she learn about the real estate business, but she also got a few lessons in Black Jack and how to appreciate a good bourbon and cigar.

"I was a young kid and I wasn't sure what I wanted. He took me under his wing and helped me grow in the business. He exposed me to so many different things and never thought any question was stupid," said Mulrenin.

One thing she'll always remember is how he treated everyone—from janitors to executives—with equal respect. "He was a straightforward guy, what you saw was what you got," Mulrenin added.

Terrestris was a casualty of the financial crisis in 2008—just before the down turn the company had invested a lot of capital in shopping centers. It was heartbreaking for Mulrenin and the rest of the company but the shift eventually led Mulrenin to the job she has now at Krusinski. After Terrestris she worked at a construction company and then for a contractor trying to find a good fit.

Mulrenin joined Krusinski more than two years ago and loves the work she does for the family owned and operated company. Her role as the client director involves cultivating new opportunities for the company and a ton of networking. Mulrenin said she loves connecting the dots and helping others out. It's also interesting going from the development side to the general contractor side because she gets to learn new things everyday.

"I love hearing people's stories, what led them to where they are. This business is all about making the right connections and developing long term relationships which I love doing," Mulrenin said.

Over the years Mulrenin has learned a lot about herself and the real estate industry. Sticking to her word and delivering on promises is the most important lesson she was taught. "Your reputation is everything but you still have to be true to yourself," Mulrenin said.