WHEN she was a little girl aged four or five, Majella Galvin would accompany her father, Michael, an auctioneer, to house viewings. And so sparked her love for the world of auctioneering. She went on to follow in her father’s footsteps in her chosen career.
“Saturday was my favourite day. I would dress up and go to viewings with dad – I was fascinated with people, looking at the property, it was the dream,” Majella recalls.
“I always remember people would say to me ‘what do you want to do when you grow up?’ and I’d say ‘an auctioneer’ and they would say ‘that’s a man’s job’.”
Well, Majella is certainly proving them wrong. She graduated last Friday as a chartered estate agent – the only female chartered estate agent in West Cork.
It was a bittersweet day. She had worked so hard to achieve this goal and the guest at her graduation was due to be her dad, but Michael, sadly passed away in April.
Him not being there by her side for such a momentous occasion was ‘tough’, but he was very much in Majella’s thoughts on the day.
“I worked very hard for my chartership and to become the first female in West Cork to get chartered. All you need to be an auctioneer is a licence, so chartered is highest standard.
"It was always my dream – that determination was there – so going back over the years, my father would have been with me, sharing that goal with me – I got chartered at the end of October ,we had our graduation on Friday, but the guest I had asked to that graduation was my father, so it was very tough.”
Later last Friday, she travelled down from the graduation in Dublin to Baltimore in West Cork where she continued to make history by not only picking up one, but two awards at the Network Ireland West Cork Businesswoman of the Year awards.
Majella was honoured with the Employee Shining Star and also a second accolade – the Power Within Champion. The awards demonstrate the amazing journey she has been on both professionally and personally in recent years.
The first one recognises her drive, success and passion for supporting people throughout their property journey in her role at DNG Galvin - in what is traditionally a male-dominated industry - which has earned her a reputation as a role model for women.
Meanwhile, her determination after a 15-year eating disorder battle represents the inspiring grit that helped her earn the title in the Power Within category this year.
One name that pops up constantly through our conversation following the announcement of the awards is her father’s, Michael.
He had set up his own auctioneering business 40 years ago, joining DNG in 2004. Now Majella and her sister Caroline work at DNG Galvin in Bandon, in the town where she grew up and went to school, at Bandon Grammar School.
“Throughout my holidays I worked in the office with my father. I did my first auction when I was 17 or 18 with my father.”
After school she went to college in Cork for three years, studying auctioneering.
“At that time there was no degree for estate agency in Ireland, so I went to the UK to the University of Reading, the College of Estate Management for two years,” she said.
“It was all experience, and I came back and was working in Dublin for a bit for DNG.”
However, health issues meant she needed to slow down. She had an eating disorder, since she was around 16 years old, something that started with a diet, but “one thing led to another”.
At that time, she said she wasn’t physically able to be on the road – but she continued doing courses in digital marketing and property.
“That interest helped me to get out really, I had that determination, I knew what I wanted.”
She said that when things got really bad, she was hospitalised for 20 weeks. That was when she hit rock bottom, around five or six years ago. Majella said she is totally recovered around three to four years. Her advice to anyone going through a similar experience is to have a goal in mind and find support.
“For me, it was my career. And I think have a member of your family or someone you are close to be a very good support to you, I think that is very important. So in my case my father was the energy of my life, you could say.
“He was a very positive man, still to this day I carry his words - ‘you can do anything if you set your mind to it’.
“I got those words when I was lying in a hospital bed, I got those words when I was running up around – it is something I will always carry with me. I have his positivity and determination and drive and that is something I am grateful for.”
Her recovery from the eating disorder has helped her deal with the other diffiuclt things life has thrown at her, she says.
“That is something I will take from the eating disorder - you really learn how to take the bumps and learn how to get over them.
“You become a stronger person, once you beat that - it is a very hard thing to beat – I think you really have to go through it to understand it. It is a dark world.”
It was after her recovery that Majella joined Network West Cork, during the pandemic, two to three years ago.
“I had recovered and I wanted to meet businesswomen, get out there, networking and I got involved originally online, at their monthly meet ups. They were just a supportive group, positive people, especially now that my father is no longer with me, it is great to have that positivity and network around you.”
Another major milestone recently was when she got elected as Chair of the Society of Chartered Auctioneers – Southern branch. Another very male-dominated sphere.
“That is a big milestone as well,” she said.
As to her future plans?
“I want to continue to grow the family business with my sister. Selling a property is often regarded as one of the most stressful events in ones life. But it doesn’t have to be, I help clients prepare their property for sale, guide them through the process and ensure they get the maximum price. As an estate agent we don’t just sell properties, we sell areas, lifestyles. For those reasons I focus marketing local areas on social media and showcase local business and amenities. When you are selling a property, you need to be in the buyer’s headset. I intend to expand more into court expert witness valuations.
“When you are buying or selling the biggest asset in your life, there is a lack of education there, because you only do it once or twice in a lifetime. One thing that I find is that I’d like to get more education to buyers and sellers and the public in general. I do that through a lot of my social media. I do a lot of videos and things like that and tips. And I am starting a series of workshops on it in the local community.”
She acknowledges that an auctioneer’s role is a big responsibility and no two sales or customers are the same. She says her approach with everyone is different.
One thing that is key though is “Giving someone time – I always say – I remember when I was young I was going to a viewing - I said, ‘how long are we going to be in this viewing dad?’ and he said ‘as long as the buyers need’. And that would always be my philosophy, respect people really.”
As to how she spends her free time?
Majella said: "Beach walks with my dog Cindy, browsing through a home interiors shop, toastmasters, socialising with friends many of whom are members of Network Ireland."
The other winners of the Network Ireland Businesswoman of the Year were Emerging New Businesswoman – Sharon Huggard and Creative Professional - Anna Groniecka. We will feature interviews with Sharon and Majella in the weeks ahead.