Driven auctioneer overcomes those who doubted her
June 9, 2014
Samantha Brockelsby was so nervous when she started out as an auctioneer that she'd get the giggles, or sometimes even pass out cold.
But her teachers at auctioneering school would cut Brockelsby a little slack. After all, she was all of 16 years old when she first stood behind a podium on her path to becoming the youngest woman in the country trained as an auctioneer.
Two decades later, Brockelsby has gotten over her nervousness, but she's still driven by the taunts of those who told her that a young woman didn't stand a chance of success as an auctioneer.
"It's terribly hard," she says. "It's definitely a man's world. But I'm tenacious, and I'm the smartest dumb person you'll ever meet."
Every Friday night, she gathers the crowd around her at Auctions Buy Sammy B on South Rock Boulevard and methodically begins working through the sale of about 1,200 lots consigned by sellers throughout the region.
She's often at work again early the next morning — and the morning after that — with estate-sale auctions or an auction ordered by a bankruptcy court.
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With four auctioneers on call, and a support staff of seven, Auctions Buy Sammy B sometimes handles as many as eight big sales a week, including a monthly auction in Carson City.
"I'm the conductor of the orchestra," says Bockelsby.
The conductor of several orchestras, in fact.
She also owns a U-Haul operation in Sparks, a couple of car lots, holds a real estate license and works as a property manager. And she has a 4-year-old and a 6-year-old who are growing up in the auction house.
The auction business by itself is growing fast — tripling in the past years by about any measure — and Brockelsby is widening its reach.
Buyers throughout the world now place bids at the company's through the Web. It's squaring off against national players in the auction industry through auctions that focus on big construction equipment. A packing and shipping service the firm launched a month ago already is handling 100 to 150 packages a month.
Brockelsby showed the first signs of unrelenting drive in her teen years.
She grew up in tightly-knit family of carnival workers, completing her school work on the road through correspondence courses and early incarnations of Web-based instruction.
Graduating from high school at age 14, Brockelsby joined her father and two brothers to attend Western College of Auctioneering at Billings, Mont.
A terrified flop the first few times she took the stage, the young woman overcame her fears and was voted one of the best in her class at graduation.
The a-ha moment that turned a shy teen into the star of the auction stage? "I found that I like being the center of attention," Brockelsby says.
Her brothers and father didn't pursue careers in auctioneering, but Brockelsby gained enough experience in the business that she felt confident in launching Auctions Buy Sammy B seven years ago.
Competitors pounded her, filing complaints with state regulators whenever Brockelsby moved into a new area of business.
"They made me stronger," she says. "I know I need to do it right the first time."
At the same time that she carves a path through a highly competitive marketplace, Brockelsby has needed to shift the focus of her business to reflect the changing tastes of a new generation of consumers.
A big shift: Unlike previous generations who accumulated collections of antiques, or coins, or memorabilia, younger consumers aren't interested in collecting much of anything beyond Facebook friends.
Brockelsby relentlessly markets her auctions to young consumers through focused use of social media — she spends an hour a day on the work — that extols the cost effectiveness of furnishing a new home or a dorm room with stuff purchased at auction.
That puts pressure on Auctions Buy Sammy B to have the right mix of merchandise available at its Friday night public auctions, and Brockelsby isn't content to see what consigners unload out of the back of their pickup trucks each week.
Instead, she depends heavily on a team of three buyers who scout garage sales, private estate sales and other venues for in-demand items.
They generate about 500 lots a week for the Friday auctions and get paid quickly so they can be out on the streets to buy more.
Brockelsby also has developed a reputation for extensive research that allows her to sell merchandise that others don't want to touch — vehicles without titles, for instance.
"I take on the nightmare clients," she says.
But whether she is auctioning a pile of 33-rpm albums or a commercial property that's involved in a bankruptcy case, Brockelsby today far removed from the frightened teen she who first got into the business.
"Now," she says, "I look at the crowd as family."