Auctioneer Buys-In to Helping Non-Profits

By Mary Pokorney-Donelan | November 18, 2021


“Tommy and Tatimus took two tees tying them to the top of two tall trees.” Jenny Markham-Gehl is warming up.

“Ten, ten, twenty, twenty, thirty, thirty, forty, forty, fifty, fifty, sixty, sixty, seventy, seventy, eighty, eighty, ninety, nine hundred hundred.” Markham-Gehl is a professional auctioneer and is getting ready to take the stage.

“We all have unique creative abilities. We all have passions. And when we can really put our all into that passion and into that ability, it shows,” says Markham-Gehl. “It doesn’t really take a lot of extra effort because it just naturally shines.”

Markham-Gehl was named the 2019 Wisconsin Auctioneer of the Year. She’s been in the auctioneering game since she was a child. Her family ran an auction company and every weekend was a working one.

“If it was on a Saturday or Sunday, no matter what day we were expected required to be there,” Markham-Gehl remembers. “I was 10 years old. I was running sheets for the auction company. And over time, I moved up and to the position of cashiering. And I also worked as a clerk and eventually a ring man.”

As she got older, she took a break from the family business and tried her hand at finance and real estate. But as the years passed, something was missing. She wanted to give auctioneering another try, but on different terms.

“We had always done benefits, but this is just a way to take it a step further and, you know, to gain more knowledge about how we can help clients,” Markham-Gehl said. I call my dad and said, dad, I think we could make a big difference. And I knew that if we pooled all of our talents together, we could really make a big difference.”

Combining her passion for auctions and helping worthwhile organizations, she joined forces with her brother Tim and her father Jim to form Bravo Benefit Auctions that provides fundraising auction services for nonprofit organizations throughout the Midwest.

“I have to tell you, working with my dad and brother and coming in as a family unit for me, it just it makes my heart smile. It’s just really a full heart because all three of us have such passion and energy and love for this business and being able to raise money for deserving organizations,” Markham-Gehl said.

Working as a team means Jenny has microphone in hand while dad and brother are in the audience working as ringmen.

“They’re that extension of the auctioneer, which kind of takes that excitement and that energy out on the floor. And they’re able to get more bids and maybe talk him into bidding one more time,” Markham-Gehl said. “We bring along that excitement. Audiences are moved by that.”

Jenny has high hopes for the field of auctioneering and she wishes more women would consider this career.

“I would say that being a woman auctioneer is unique in that there isn’t a ton of them. You were starting to see more and more of them in the auction industry, but definitely has been the majority has been male. I think it’s a unique opportunity and challenge,” she said.

Markham-Gehl still competes in auctioneering competitions nationally and internationally. She considers it a way to keep evolving and improving her craft. “When I won the Wisconsin state championship, it was a good moment for me,” Markham-Gehl said. “I compete is because it makes you better. It’s just one of those things that I do for myself, for self-improvement.

With a genuine love for what she does, she has found her calling. “Keep just paving my way and I keep that persistence, you know, and I have a goal and I’m going to reach it.”

Mary Pokorney-Donelan

Mary Pokorney-Donelan

Mary Pokorney-Donelan is a reporter for the “Wisconsin Life” project who is also the producer of the film series “Director’s Cut.” When she’s not rewatching every episode of “The Great British Bake Off” over and over again, you can find her hiking and fishing with her family across the state...

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