Tuesday 8 September 2020 was a historical day for Saga Furs in many aspects. The Saga Furs September auction kicked off with a positive note in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition, for the first time we got a female auctioneer, Vennesa Webster from Canada. “We are lucky to get a new team member who despite her young age has so much experience in auctioneering. This is a demanding job that can only be learned in practice,” says Sales Director Mikko Hovén of Saga Furs.
At the moment, she is the only woman auctioneer in the global fur industry and the youngest of them all. Also, she is a professional fur grader and grades North American mink at Saga Furs in Stoughton, Wisconsin. Vennesa has such an energy and passion that we had to find out who is this lady.
Career choice boosted by a ‘can-do’ attitude
Vennesa started to work at North American Fur Auctions part-time in high school. As many of her family members also worked in the fur industry, she feels like she’s always been involved in the industry somehow.
We´re living in year 2020 and women serve as fighter pilots and have other jobs which are physically extremely demanding, just to start with. This said, it feels silly to pay attention to gender, especially when focusing on people´s professional lives. Still, you might think what explains the scarcity of women as fur auctioneers?
“All the auctioneers have traditionally been males. Maybe women have lacked interest or been scared. When I first started on the auction stand as a spotter, I thought I am capable of auctioneering as well, be it nerve-racking or not,” Vennesa says.
Auction hammer as a memory of Kevin Douse
Starting a new thing is always the most difficult part. Especially in a job when there is no formal training available.
“You just got to get up there on an auction stand. Although there´s no way to teach how to auction fur you need a mentor, someone to spar with and to count on. For me it was Kevin Douse. He was always positive, never underestimated me. One of the best teachers, especially when it came to being an auctioneer. A person who I only have good things to say about and one that will truly be missed in this industry,” Vennesa continues.
The concrete memory of highly respected Kevin Douse who passed away last spring is always present in Vennesa´s work, as she uses the auction hammer which she got from Kevin as a gift. Kevin was well known in the fur industry, one of the best fur auctioneers in the world and worked as an auctioneer also at Saga Furs auctions.
Good judgement and perceptual ability needed
In Vennesa´s opinion you’re always learning something new when it comes to being an auctioneer and can never fully be taught, but with more practice it does get easier. Experience counts though some skills are essential.
“As a fur auctioneer you have to be able to work at a fast pace, be very focused and able to make decisions throughout the auction room. Very good judgement is needed, and you also have to be confident in yourself to do the job”.
Vennesa also tells that despite the experience she has gained, the first auction of the season always makes her nervous. After five lots the fluster goes away and her whole being is involved in the auction.
Vennesa describes herself as an energetic and fun. When auctioneering she speaks really fast – and loud. Hot water with lemon and honey are needed to take care of her voice. Vennesa tries not to be too serious and aims at rising the atmosphere in the auction room.
This said, she added: “Maybe the most demanding situations in my job are those when buyers get frustrated in the auction room. Even then, when the auction is over, its like nothing ever happened, they never take it personally”.
Teamwork for a joint goal
Vennesa enjoys teamwork and is passionate about a job where everyone shares the same goal. Listening to her makes you convinced that this really is a family-like business.
“It is like coming home. Although this is my first trip to Finland and Europe, I see familiar faces and know most of the buyers by name. The fur business is about relationships. I am happy to see the buyers and they are happy to see me”.
According to Vennesa, that is also one of the reasons why an online auction can never compete with a live auction. This is a people business.
As is typical of Finns, we had to find what Vennesa thinks of us. Especially when it is often claimed that Canadians and Finns have a lot in common. Vennesa agrees.
“Both are friendly and more laid back. Perhaps Canadians are a little bit more loud as I am myself, I don´t find relevant differences and this applies to work as well. I feel particularly welcome to Saga Furs”.
Who she is Vennesa Webster, a fur auctioneer, grader and account representative from Toronto, Canada. Currently the only female auctioneer in the global fur industry and at the age of 29 also the youngest.
Fur industry experience Has worked in the industry since 2007. An Auctioneer for 6 years, auction spotter for 2 years.
Most memorable auction The first time she ever auctioned mink. She was extremely nervous and lost her voice, nothing seamed to come out and she ran off the auction stand. One of the buyers left the auction room just find her, he told her to shake it off and get back up there because she has great potential to be a good auctioneer. The next time she returned to the auction stand she remembered that buyer´s very kind words and that horrible moment turned into an empowering experience. The rest was forgotten.