Top Producer

Ralph Gray is a born entrepreneur. Not afraid to take risks, his ability to bet on himself has produced great success over the years. And though he has had his share of failures, he always owned his losses and worked hard to bounce back. That integrity, perseverance, and courage continue to pay off for him today.      
Ralph comes from a family of entrepreneurs. His paternal great-grandfather was a freemason in Australia and was a specialist in stone construction and creating beautiful buildings. In 1869 he was invited by King Kalakaua to come to Hawaii and be his city planner, resulting in him building the Kawaiaha’o Church, The Bishop Museum, the Legislature building and other historic structures for the Royal Family. His maternal grandfather, Cliff Weaver, came to Hawaii in 1937 as a tourist but decided to stay. By the 1940s-1980s with his brother Spence, they opened Spence Cliff Incorporated, which eventually opened and operated 40 restaurants across the state and in Tahiti. You might remember Fisherman's Wharf at the end of Ward Avenue or The Ranch House in Aina Haina.
“My paternal grandfather Rafael Watson, whom I am named after was a pilot in the Navy and was stationed at Kaneohe Naval base. During the Japanese attack on Dec. 7th, 1942, Rafael was laying down ground fire from a 30 caliber machine gun and was straffed by a Japanese Zero and killed. All this happened before a single bomb fell on Pearl Harbor. My father served in the Navy and retired as a Commander. This is one of the reasons I give to charities like the Navy Seal Foundation and Marine Force Reconnaissance. Our military allows us to live and  enjoy our freedom.”
Ralph grew up in his family's restaurants across Hawaii. After graduating from Roosevelt High School, he went to Orange Coast Junior College, where he joined the surf team and competed all along the coast. He later transferred to San Diego State University where he studied Communications and continued surfing and competing in California.  
“Surfing, diving and travel have shaped my life,” said Ralph. “I have been lucky enough to call The North Shore my home away from home. I would drive out to the north shore after school so I could surf Velzy Land, Pipeline and Backdoors. I traveled the world surfing and as an amateur contestant was lucky enough to get to join the NSSA surf team in 1986 as a college surfer, and go to South Africa to surf in the Gunston Pro in Durban and the Spur Steak House contest at Outerkom, in cape Town. The highlight was surfing Jeffries Bay with the best surfers in the world ripping all around me, it was mind-blowing.”
Upon graduating college, Ralph got a job working for Moss Computers. He spent the next three years in a coat and tie, running up and down the California coast, selling shipping computers to large companies. After winning multiple sales awards, he knew that sales and marketing were his thing. By the age of 24, however, he was beginning to get bored with his job and longed to be his own boss. So, he and a friend started their own business, Sutton Innovations, and created the first 6-hour waterproof sunblock called Moon Tan and a few other products including “Wet Watch,” a watch with hip art and liquid in the band that you could squish around. This was a huge success with over two million units sold and was used later as a toy in the kid's Jack In the Box meal. 
Ralph hit the road and traveled all over the country, hitting every trade show along the way, to get their product into surf shops all across the world. “It was a great time in my life and I learned a lot about packaging and marketing a product. We became the #1 choice for surfers sunblock with Pro surfers like Richie Collins wearing our product and could be found in every surf shop,” across the world in the 1980s-90s.
However, due to the first Iraq war in the 1990s, and the turn the economy took, surf shops could no longer pay their bills. Ralph had to close shop and go back to Moss Computers. “It was a huge jolt to my financial life, having to pay off all my debts, but it was the right thing to do,” he said.
As an LLC, Ralph could have just shut down the company, and not paid his debts. Instead, he made sure he paid every last dollar back, and at the ripe old age of 26, he began building his life back up and started back at Moss Computer. Then, in 1993, he had the opportunity to move back to Hawaii with a company called Gargoyles USA, where he became the sales manager for the Pacific, overseeing product placement throughout Hawaii, Guam and Saipan.  
In 1998 I purchased my first property on Oahu. It was a small one-bedroom apartment in Kapiolani Manor for $90k that needed a full renovation. I found a handyman and together we put about $10k into it and then put it back on the market for $145k. I sold it in about 6 weeks for $135k. Then I just did it again. After a couple of flips, I bought my first home in Manoa Valley to live in. The house was about $450k for a 5 bedroom, 3 bath home and interest rates were about 8% then which is similar to today. I was in my thirties and a little worried about making the payments on my own, so I rented out my extra room upstairs and created a studio and a 1 bedroom apartment downstairs to help pay the mortgage. This taught me a lot about leverage and how to use the property to pay for itself.
By 1998, Ralph had the opportunity to enter the real estate industry. His mother was a broker back in the 1970s and always said he would be a great real estate agent. However, when Ralph entered the industry, he came in through the back door. Using his experience in the technology industry, as well as sales and marketing, Ralph got a job with as a territory manager of the pacific, training agents and brokerages across the state on how to market their properties on and
In 2000 Ralph married his lovely wife Cathy Haring who he had met only 1 year earlier. “This was a turning point in my life, and I wanted to have a family and to give them a wonderful life in Hawaii.”
While training agents on internet marketing, Ralph met Myra and Victor Brandt, who worked for RE/MAX Honolulu at the time, and together, the three of them decided to open their own brokerage. “We came up with the name Kahala Associates and created the Palm tree logo with an artist friend of mine named, Kevin Vacarello”. Kahala Associates became one of the fastest-growing real estate companies in Oahu and was eventually purchased by Sotheby’s International Realty. 
“What really helped me succeed as an agent,” Ralph explained, “was deciding to focus on one area of the market to specialize in. Beachfront was on fire at the time, and no one had that on their business card or wanted to limit themselves to that. But I did, and with that little change on my card, I was the Beachfront Specialist.”
Those two words changed everything for Ralph. His first sale was from a friend of his, and after getting connected to a big investor through one of his old classmates, Ralph reeled in his first “angel buyer.” Within his first year as an agent, Ralph sold over $10 million. He spent the next several years finding properties for this angel buyer, whose name was Thom and soon became one of the Top 100 agents on Hawaii.  
“I attribute a lot of my early success to my angel Thom. Thom was a pioneer in the vacation rental business and how to use vacation rental income to pay your mortgage. We moved a lot of real estate together and I learned to mimic his actions and started buying my own properties,” said Ralph.
“Back in 2000, I remember seeing on the mainland a trend with agents creating teams. I made some calls to learn how they worked and started my first team at Kahala Associates. Over the years the companies have changed and so have the teams. For the last 12 years, my team consists of Pauline Shum and Rick Sakimoto, which is Team Gray. Pauline is the team & escrow manager and keeps all our transactions running smoothly and keeps the house in order. She is a priceless member and has a lot to do with our success. Pauline also speaks Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese, Malaysian and English. Rick Sakimoto helps with sales and covers open houses when I can't be there and is a great backup agent. He has a master's degree in real estate from USC and has a great wealth of knowledge. It's much easier to be successful when others help you get there. In the end, all parties of the team benefit and the clients have better access to information when needed. Our goal is to provide exceptional service to our clients, which we consider our friends”
As the leader of Team Gray, Ralph is still incredibly passionate about beachfront properties and investing, especially his most recent development project – turning a 1400-acre Dole Sugarcane Field property that he purchased with his friend, Justin Alexander and 7 other investors, into 5- and 10-acre farm lots that overlook the ocean in Haleiwa. 
“This project was a huge risk, but we felt there was a market for ocean view farm lots and took the risk,” explained Ralph. “Covid hit after we secured the property and we could have been wiped out. But we kept up the work and kept our chins up, then as the market turned, land became a hot product. We have now provided an amazing development for the local families to have their own farms on Oahu, which should provide food for the whole island. I love to see families own their own land and produce food for all.”
Ralph does not ever see himself not selling real estate. “I love working with people and think I will be finding people amazing homes & properties until I can't walk or talk any further.” When he is not working, however, he enjoys surfing, prone foiling, snowboarding, spearfishing, hot yoga, fine dining and traveling with his ohana. 
Ralph is a family man who loves his wife and children. He is married to Cathy Malia Gray and has a 20-year-old daughter named Taylor and a 17-year-old son named Colby. Everything I do is so my family can live in Hawaii and have a wonderful lifestyle. “I have to thank my wife & family for standing by my side through thick and thin and allowing me to take the risks that are necessary in this industry to be successful.”
“If you write down your goals, work hard at meeting those goals, and make the turns in the road when necessary, you will ultimately succeed. I also feel like you need to walk the walk and talk the talk, you can't sell people on real estate investing if you don’t invest in it yourself.”
As Ralph continues his adventures in real estate, while betting on himself along the way, he will continue to secure more wins, not just for himself, but for many friends and clients to come. It will be exciting to see all he will accomplish.