Picture a wild market stall. It’s overflowing with bits and bobs... and manned by a single Mum in her 30s.
That's where this all started.
I was flipping everything from tools to ballgowns... then hurrying away to serve customers next door at my steak and gravy caravan.
I loved the mayhem, but what caught my attention was a group of people having even more fun than everyone else. They were auctioneers, and I wanted to be one.
In what felt like a blink, I'd finished two years of unpaid work at one of Auckland's oldest auction houses: George Walkers.
When tough times sent the firm into liquidation, I seized the chance and bought it.
The only way to transform it into a healthy business was to try new approaches to auctions. First, we went online with Trade Me. Then, I put everything on the line and bought six full floors of furniture from an accounting firm...
And that's when it clicked. Our planet and small businesses were dying for used corporate furniture.
By recycling premium equipment from the big guys who didn’t need it, we diverted tons of amazing furniture from heading to the landfill, and instead made it affordable for everyone.
Since then, I've split my time between seeing this vision through, and giving charities a hand with their auctions.
Today, my daughter’s at the helm with me. Serena and I are standing by to give you a free quote and floor plan the moment you need one. Just click the button below and suggest a time that suits you best.
In her mid 30s, Michelle Maitland became a single mum and the sole provider for her two daughters. She made ends meet by operating a market stall, stocking it with whatever she could find at auctions. It didn’t take long before she was hooked on the auction process and decided to become an auctioneer herself.
"This is somewhat of an archaic industry and there no women auctioneers at that time. There were no schools where you could get training and no jobs available,” she says. Her solution was to door knock all the auctioneers she could find and offer her services for free. She ended up with a job at Auckland auctioneer firm George Walkers - with no pay. This was a venerable firm, established in 1908, but was suffering hard times. After she had worked there for two years, the owner of the business said he was going to shut it down because it was so difficult to make a profit.
Maitland bought the business from him using her life savings (“which wasn’t a lot”). She quickly realised the business was carrying a lot of debt and, by buying it; she had let the previous owner out of a potential nightmare. The next two years were focused merely on survival as debtors became increasingly strident. As well as working full time, she was still operating her market stall to try and keep afloat.
“I see now that ignorance was bliss, however I have had the best training available through trial and error. Many times I thought about giving up but this was my passion, even if there was no profit”.
Out of desperation she started listing unsold goods on the Trade me website, but this only seemed to bring in low quality customers. To help her chances of success, Maitland took up some self-development and life skill courses and this helped her identify new opportunities for the business. Legendary businessman Richard Branson’s book "Screw it, just do it” gave her inspiration and the confidence to think big. Many of her clients in the auction business are corporate companies who want fast easy solutions to their problems. She got the chance to buy up six floors full of corporate furniture from a major accounting firm that was moving offices. “I took a job on that competitors did not want to touch. I had to find large storage space and fund the costs of removal - for thousands of items!” However, she had found an important niche – used corporate furniture – and this has lifted George Walkers to new levels of success.
From a tiny 3000 sq. ft. back street store, the business now occupies a 15,000 sq. ft. megastore in Rosebank Rd, Auckland. A focus on online auctions through Trade Me and a George Walkers website have enabled sales to be made nationally. Her success, including three finalist positions in the Westpac small business awards, led Maitland to become the first female executive of the Auctioneers’ Association. On top of her many business duties, Maitland offers her services free as an auctioneer for charitable purposes, ranging from small communities to schools and, increasingly, corporate events.
The Maitland Family - Michelle, Serena, Melanie and George
"What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal.” Albert Pine.
George Walkers Office Furniture Megastore does not only provide solutions to clients’ office furnishing, removal and fit out needs; the shop is also committed to serving communities and people. We have been helping clients raise funds through charity auctions for many years. Call us if you would like us to be part of your project, we are more than willing to help.
To organise your charity auction, we need the complete information about the event, the people you are expecting to join, the date and time, and the items to be auctioned. Headed by Michelle Maitland, our team would be glad to work with your organising committee to make the event a successful one. We will make sure everything will go as planned so you can achieve your goals for the auction.
About Michelle Maitland
Michelle Maitland is an experienced auctioneer with a genuine passion to help people and make valuable contributions to the communities she and her business serve. She is the Managing Director for George Walkers Office Furniture Megastore and is one of the most popular charity auctioneers in the country.
Michelle Maitland is an executive member of New Zealand Licensed Auctioneers and a board member for Auctioneers Association of NZ. She has worked with many charitable organisations and is still passionate about helping clients raise funds through charity auctions. Browse our website to learn more about Michelle.
Michelle doing her thing at the GABA Annual Charity Auction and Dinner
"Like many who grew up without much, I learnt great survival skills and remember my first Auction when I was about 7 years old, the auctioneer was just like Santa so I decided anything is possible then! Much later I realised that then I had made a decision that day to become an Auctioneer." Michelle Maitland
Michelle at the Westpac Rescure Chopper Appeal Charity Auction 2012
At George Walkers Office Furniture Megastore, we know there are people who are willing to share what they have. We recognise the fact that giving is more exciting and fulfilling if you are getting something in return. In this case, we are selling old and refurbished office furniture and other items to raise money for a good cause. By joining a charity auction, people get a chance to help change lives and take home a variety of goods.
Why We Do Charity Auctions?
- Notes from Michelle Maitland
- At the core of who I am is the opportunity to give.
- Coming from a background where I know what struggle and survival is and the difference a helping hand or word can make to a life.
- We love to help.
- Family business that is community driven..
- The cycle of our business is driven by loss and opportunity
- It is easy for us to make a difference with communities by providing our service and knowledge freely.
- We can help with flow of auctions lists of related items for audiences.
- We know how to gain the best results in the shortest times, the advantages of silent and raffle sales, pledges, the process and lay out of auctions, the best ways to promote them and the areas to create highest dollar value.
- We offer a specialist auctioneer with performance results certificate and stage training for audience participation who is also an advanced presenter.
- Promote your company for free - its win, win! In making a difference, services and products.