Ever wonder what goes through an auctioneer’s mind during a bid calling? Our newest FACE of Atlanta, Magen McRoberts, takes us into the fast-paced world of live auction bidding, as well as the other amazing work she does through her company, Auction Eventworks. This travel-addicted cry baby (don’t worry, it’s a good thing) is an Atlanta native who is helping local non-profits raise their event game and, in turn, raise their funding. Magen is ready to share a little bit about her life, how she got her business started and her advice to budding entrepreneurs.
You left your native Atlanta to attend University of Colorado Boulder. What did you miss about your hometown?
I grew up in Dunwoody and attended North Springs Charter High School in Sandy Springs. I was thirsty for adventure and new experiences — something that felt challenging and exciting. My dad graduated from CU and loves the mountains, so I started snowboarding when I was about 12 and it seemed like a natural fit. Once I got out there, I went through a major culture shock. I missed the diversity of culture and class that I grew up with in the city — it wasn’t long before I transferred back to Georgia State, where I felt right at home!
What are the biggest changes, bad or good, you’ve noticed living in this city during the course of your life?
I certainly think Atlanta has changed for the better over the last 10 years. While we may still suffer from extreme traffic challenges, we’ve also become a more bike- and walk-friendly city, with safer neighborhoods and more enriching experiences. We’ve made great strides in the way of music, culture and the arts, and we are lucky to host some of the best chefs and restaurants in the country.
How did you get started in auction work and your company, Auction Eventworks?
My father owns a commercial real estate auction company, AMCbid, so I’ve grown up around auctions my whole life and have a deep understanding of bidder psychology. In college, I studied business management but worked in the hospitality industry for years, starting as a cocktail waitress, then bartender, to catering manager, to sales and marketing director. In 2009, I landed a job with a boutique hotel and fine dining restaurant, where I managed five floors of space for dining, private parties, luxury hotel suites and a rooftop penthouse. It was one of the most stressful jobs of my career, but I absolutely loved the juggle of catering the needs of multiple people. Eventually I relocated while working at Marriott and learned an infinite amount about brand consistency and guest experience.
In 2015, I had what I call a “coming to God moment” and decided to move back to Atlanta and help my father with his business. He always offered his auction services for free to non-profit organizations and invited me to come to an event with him. I couldn’t stop scrutinizing the event: ‘Why did they set the registration table there?’ ‘Why did they organize the program like that?’ ‘Who is managing the catering?’ ‘Why aren’t they sharing their mission?’ My father gave me his blessing to reach out and offer them some guidance, and the rest is history. That consultation turned into a referral for another non-profit auction event, and another event and so forth. It wasn’t until three years later that I finally came up with a business name and incorporated. I didn’t even have business cards, yet I was working over a dozen events each year based solely on word of mouth!
Perhaps it’s a stereotype, but we think of auctioneers as predominately male. Is that correct? If so, what were the challenges you had to overcome to become a leader in the field?
You’re absolutely right! In the broad scope of the auction world, most auctioneers are male. However, in the world of non-profit auctioneers, it’s split pretty evenly between men and women. Most auctioneers got started in the business like me, being second, third, or even fourth generation, but all auctioneers are fairly specialized (for example, cars, real estate, antiques, etc.); the event auctioneer is just another niche in our line of work.
The truth is, it wasn’t hard for me to gain notice in the industry, mainly because I am a woman and many organizations were looking for something new and different on stage at their events. Being a woman has worked to my advantage!
What tips would you share with young entrepreneurs or anyone looking to go out on their own? What are some common mistakes to try to avoid?
From my personal experience, don’t try to force your business into being a business. If you have something viable to offer, stay behind the scenes, market organically, don’t spend a ton of money on branding and office supplies, and building a huge staff. Start by doing what you do best and let the market tell you if there’s a need for what you offer.
How do you and your husband relax on the weekends?
Weekends are work time! Most of our events take place from Thursday through Sunday, so weekends are not when we relax. Our greatest form of relaxation is getting out of town. My parents have a cabin up in the north Georgia mountains, so we go up there anytime we have a weekend off to hike and go camping. We’re also really into camper-van life and travel extensively. When we’re in Atlanta we love to see shows, ride bikes and eat our way through various neighborhoods. We live in Cabbagetown, so we frequent Agave, Mi Barrio and our favorite grub hub, Little’s. My husband and I both love to cook so we also spend a fair amount of time experimenting in the kitchen with friends.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Under promise and over deliver.
Aside from faith, family and friends, what are three things you cannot live without?
Notebooks (I’ve been journaling my whole life so there are notebooks everywhere), vacation plans (one of the only things that keeps me going) and crying (it’s a great relief for me, and I love letting my tears out; my need to cry is something I’ve learned to embrace and not feel ashamed of).
Our thanks to Magen McRoberts for sharing so much about her life, both personally and professionally, as well as the therapeutic benefits of crying!
And as always, kudos to photographer extraordinaire, CatMax Photography.