By Marci Narum
It’s safe to say that Cashman sisters, Missy and Katie (Fitzsimmons) have the ‘gift of gab.’ Both women are at ease, graceful, and witty in front of any size audience. The sisters are the middle two of six children. They grew up working together in the family business, Cashman Nursery and Landscaping in Bismarck, North Dakota, and appeared in TV commercials together. All of the Cashman kids took turns promoting the business in front of the camera over the years, along with their parents, Dan and Carol Cashman. Their mother worked diligently with them to hone their speaking skills.
“Our mom was a speech teacher,” Missy says. “We grew up watching the Oscars and grading the actors’ speeches, because our mom made us do it. Mom had us dialed in to speech and grammar at very young ages. So when it comes to trying to command that presence on a microphone, it’s just something we Cashman kids have been able to do.”
The Cashman “kids” still make appearances in commercials from time to time. But Missy and Katie are back together on the microphone for a whole different reason: helping raise money for charities at fundraising events and galas. This sister duo is becoming known as the Cashman Auctionisters.
How it Happened
“It’s all Missy’s fault,” laughs Katie. “She is a ‘Jill-of-all-trades’: a radio DJ, a wedding DJ, she officiates weddings. She’s kind of this catch-all, filler-inner, woman-about-town in Bozeman, Montana.”
Missy’s persona is Missy O’Malley—the DJ, radio personality, TV news anchor, and auctioneer. She was working a DJ gig for a charity event when she discovered her interest in auctioneering. It happened the moment she saw auctioneer Johnna Wells in action.
“She is super classy. She has her own auction company out in Portland, Oregon and does all this philanthropic work. She is a smokin’ hot, cool babe. When she got on the mic, she commanded the attention of the entire room. She was unbelievable. When it was all said and done she had raised $350,000. In Bozeman! In 40 minutes! It’s unheard of. I wanted to be her. I thought, ‘I could do that.’”
“Missy called me and said, ‘We’ve got to go to Auctioneering School. This would be a good life skill to have,’” Katie says, laughing. “I said, ‘learning how to play golf is a life skill, Missy.’”
But Katie says her sister was determined.
“Missy said, ‘No, Dude, I’m telling you, there’s this thing, you can go to school and in a week they teach you how to be an auctioneer. We’ve got to go to this one in Missouri; they call themselves the Harvard of Auctioneering School. I think it’s the best one in the country. It says so on their website. We’ve got to do this together. If we don’t do this together we’re never going to do this!’ And it all of the sudden turned into this thing that we just got fixated on and wanted to do.”And the dream was born. Katie soon became the one committed to making it reality. The sisters attended Missouri Auction School, truly known as “The Harvard of Auctioneering,” in St. Louis, Missouri last June.
“Auction school started on Sunday and by Monday night we were in a consignment auction house selling,” explains Katie. “It was like a swap meet. Missy went first and she sold a couple things. I bought the first thing she sold. It was a pocket watch. I kept bidding it up,” Katie laughs, “so she had to keep chanting.”
“I sold this box of Christmas ornaments and Missy bought it. So we each have the very first thing we ever sold as auctioneers. And that’s pretty cool.”
But becoming an auctioneer doesn’t happen in one day. Katie and Missy say they have to keep practicing–every day.
“You learn this basic chant but you need to make it your own,” Katie says. “Some auctioneers have that tuning fork sound almost like they’re singing. So you have to figure out how to preserve your voice. It’s a lot to talk that fast for that long to a full room that you’re trying to corral and keep their attention. So right now both of us are working on how our chant is evolving and what our filler words are turning into.”
Seasoned auctioneers tell them it may take up to six years to develop their own rhythm, sound, and filler words. They know they have to be patient with themselves and practice consistently.
“It is so fascinating to me, Missy says. “The mentors I have here in the Bozeman area tell me when you are driving down the road, sell the fence posts, sell the telephone pole, sell the tree off the side of the road. Open it up like you would at a live auction.”
“I try to practice every day,” Katie admits. “I practice the most in the car when I’m picking up my daughter from daycare or driving to work. I don’t want to look too crazy walking into work or walking around the grocery store making auctioneering sounds,” she says as she laughs.
There were 76 students in the class Katie and Missy attended. Seven of them were women, but none of them were like Missy and Katie.
“They had never met women like us before. We were this enigma they had never seen,” Katie says. We started a Facebook group to keep up with all these people and they post pictures and videos of themselves at auctions they’re doing with chickens and hogs and estate sales. And then we’ll post pictures of ourselves at some fancy gala dressed up in evening gowns wearing pearls with our hair done up,” she laughs. “It’s very different and very fun.”
Start the Bidding
The Auctionisters had their first fundraising event together on September 29. Since then, they have auctioneered for 10 events, raising more $200,000 for charities—sometimes together, sometimes solo.
“Katie and I are so much better together because not only does it give the other person a break, you can look ahead to the next item you’re going to sell. You can catch your breath, and the audience isn’t hearing the same voice all night. Every time you start it kind of picks up the crowd a bit and gets the energy up in the room,” says Missy.
“That is what we’re good at,” Katie shares. “I tell stories that have an auctioneering feel to them. So I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of auctioneering as well. But I thought what the hell would I do? I’m not going to auction off cattle. I don’t know anything about cars.”
“We have so much fun playing off each other. We finish each other’s sentences,” Missy laughs.
“We’re good at working with audiences and telling jokes and telling stories and endearing them to us so we can endear them to the cause that they are there for.” Katie says. “And who doesn’t want to help out charities and foundations that need money?”
The twist? Earning money is not the first priority for the Cashman Auctionisters. At least not right now.
“We’re in this for the fun of it. We’re not exactly starting to be auctioneers to make our first million dollars,” Missy says, laughing. “But you never know where it’s going to take you or network you into the next thing and that’s the beauty of it and that’s why we love to do it.”
“Everybody’s trying to find ‘that thing’ that gets them excited,” Katie continues. “So even if I do this and only make a couple hundred bucks a year but just have fun doing it, that’s fine by me. But if I could make a career out of this and really do something with it, this could really be a true calling and a fulfilling occupation. Especially if I could do it side-by-side with my sister. That would be the absolute gravy.”
Contact the Auctionisters for your event:
Missy: 701-226-4687; Katie: 503-853-5063;
Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
Click here to see some commercials Missy and Katie did as kids!