Cruise ship experiences honed siblings’ sales skills
WHEN people think of auctioneers, they usually paint a picture of mature white men in suits, but when they come across sisters Catherine Elliot and Jacqui Williams, all those assumptions are thrown out the window.
Elliot, 40 and Williams, 33, are two of Port Elizabeth’s sought-after auctioneers and are busy breaking down stereotypes in the process, while managing to make money for their employers as the 2 Sisters Auctioneers.
The Theescombe sisters, who are part of well-known swimming family, the Elliots – the owners of the Brylin Academy in Fairview – have been in the auction industry for the last 10 years and credit their cruise ship experience in helping to build their careers.
“Both of us were contracted to an American-based fine art gallery and they trained us as auctioneers,” Elliot said.
She said the gallery contracted her to travel and auction artwork before sending the sisters on cruises where they had to adapt their style of auctioning.
“People on ships weren’t there necessarily to buy expensive art but were there to rather pass the time and relax and that was where entertainment auctioning came in,” Elliot said.
While doing auctions for cruises, the sisters realised they had to keep people’s attention, and had to adapt their ways of selling their art in order to make money.
“We had to engage the audience during the auctions after the show. Catherine and myself hardly ever saw each other, because even though we had the same employer, we worked on different ships the entire time we worked for the Park West Gallery,” Williams said.
For personal reasons, the ladies moved back to the Bay and decided to use the talents they had honed on the cruises to do event auctions in Port Elizabeth.
“When we came back, we had to think really hard if we wanted to continue doing auctions because doing it full-time was a lot of work and required a lot of hours.
“What auctioneers did in a month, we did in a week back on the cruises.
You had to update your books every week because everyone on the cruise was passing by and you had to get your money, get the buyer’s details and have everything ready by the end of the week,” Elliot said.
Now the sisters auction for charity-based organisations and other events. “We sell anything people donate, from weekends away to whatever else has been given in the name of charity.”
2 Sisters Auctioneers as they call themselves on Facebook, said they encouraged their audience to have fun while selling them goods to raise money for individuals and other good causes.
Both of them have full-time jobs – Elliot is a pre-primary principal at Brylin Pre-Primary which her parents Brian and Jenny Elliot started in 1975. They are also trustees of the school.
Williams owns her own hair salon, Jax Hair. “We didn’t want to let go of our passion but wanted to pursue other things as well, which is why we decided to do auctions part-time,” the sisters said.
“When people see us prior to going up and doing auctions, they do have pre-conceived notions that maybe we don’t know what we’re doing until they actually hear us,” the sisters said.
“Each auction is different. We always look at where we are, what kind of guests there are and work our way from there. Sometimes we make people tons of money and other times we don’t, that’s just how it goes,” Elliot said.
“What makes us different from other auctioneers, is that they are mostly salesmen, and we do sales, entertainment and auctions,” Williams said.
“The people in the Bay have been responsive and positive, and working with my sister has been fun as we bounce ideas off each other and when she gives me a look, I known exactly what she wants and vice versa.”