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Michelle Maitland: The Trailblazing Auctioneer Who Redefined Success

Michelle Maitland: The Trailblazing Auctioneer Who Redefined Success

Serena Maitland |

In the heart of Auckland, amidst the bustling streets and business fervor, Michelle Maitland's journey began with humble beginnings and a fierce determination to carve her own path in the world of auctions.

At just 30 years old, Michelle found herself a single mother, shouldering the responsibility of raising two daughters. To make ends meet, she started small, operating a market stall stocked with goods acquired through auctions—a venture that ignited her fascination with the auction process itself.

"The industry was archaic back then," Michelle recalls, reflecting on her early days. "There were no female auctioneers, no formal training schools, and certainly no easy entry points." Undeterred, she took matters into her own hands, knocking on doors of established auctioneers, offering her services for free. It was a bold move that eventually landed her a role at George Walkers, a venerable auction firm established in 1908, albeit without pay initially.

Yet, Michelle's story didn't stop at merely breaking into a male-dominated field. Two years into her tenure, faced with the firm's imminent closure due to financial struggles, she made a pivotal decision—using her meager savings, she purchased George Walkers, thereby shouldering its debts and uncertainties.

"It was a sink-or-swim moment," she recalls with a hint of resilience. "I was juggling full-time work at the auction house with managing my market stall just to stay afloat." Despite the daunting challenges, Michelle's passion for auctions burned bright, propelling her through the stormy seas of business uncertainty.

Desperation often breeds innovation. Michelle turned to online platforms like Trade Me to offload unsold inventory, albeit initially attracting low-quality customers. Armed with newfound determination and insights gained from self-development courses, she sought unconventional opportunities. Inspired by Richard Branson's entrepreneurial spirit, she seized a daring opportunity—acquiring surplus corporate furniture from a major accounting firm's relocation, a move that propelled George Walkers into a niche market success story.

From its modest origins in a 3000 sq ft store, George Walkers now commands a 15,000 sq ft massive showroom on Rosebank Rd, Auckland. Embracing online auctions and leveraging a robust web presence, Michelle transformed the business into a national success story. Her achievements, including multiple finalist positions in the Westpac Small Business Awards, also made her the first female executive of the Auctioneers' Association—a testament to her pioneering spirit and industry acclaim.

Beyond business, Michelle's commitment to community shines through her philanthropic endeavours. She volunteers her auctioneering skills for charitable causes, ranging from local communities to corporate events, embodying the belief that success is most meaningful when shared.

Reflecting on her journey, Michelle remains grounded by her roots. "I learned early on that resilience and opportunity go hand in hand," she muses. "Every challenge has been a lesson in perseverance and possibility."

Today, Michelle Maitland stands not only as a symbol of entrepreneurial grit but also as a beacon of hope for aspiring auctioneers and businesswomen alike. Her story inspires us to embrace challenges, redefine conventions, and, above all, to believe that every auction can be a gateway to new opportunities.