The Siren Sisters are saving the world one auction at a time.
By Alicia Eastes, Photo by Larissa Nicole Rogers
Carrie Frugé and her sister, Margaret ‘Meg’ Earnest, are taking the auction world by storm, Siren Sisters style. To say their burgeoning business is already reshaping the Texas auction scene is an understatement, and they fully intend to live up to their name with a loud impact.
It all started when the sisters attended Austin Humane Society’s fundraising auction event in 2016, and Earnest caught the bug that became the impetus for her to convince her sister they should develop a sibling partnership in philanthropy. After getting a skeptical Frugé on board, the two enrolled in a course and attended America’s Auction Academy in Lewisville, Texas, in 2017. There, they learned the ins and outs of the auctioneering profession and were mentored by instructor Mike Jones.
The duo was already an unordinary pair in the 80-hour licensing program, being two women, let alone sisters. Most of the men enrolled in their course didn’t expect to learn alongside women, and in a dramatically male-dominated field, the sisters have struggled to be taken seriously. It’s also a very territorial industry, and they’ve been warned to stay out of other auctioneers’ turf. While the competition has been a tough lesson to learn, they’ve relied on each other to confront the naysayers.
To top it all off, Earnest found out she was pregnant at the end the program and gave birth to a girl the fall after they were licensed. They adjusted their plans but stayed committed to their goal to kick off the auctioneering efforts in 2017. After donating their services for the remainder of work in 2017, their operational business, Siren Sisters Auctioneers, in 2018.
As sisters, they have built-in training partners and they critique each other as only sisters can. They practice and develop their cadence, or their “chant,” as it’s known in auctioneering lingo, on each other. They also use their experience from a background in sales to inform their propensity and tenacity to make auction events buzz with excitement and garner audience support for the mission of the organization. When the Siren Sisters take on a cause, they consider themselves an extension of the organization they’re representing and genuinely want to learn everything they can about the nonprofits that contract their services to promote the mission authentically. With this heartfelt strategy, they’ve already found great success while meeting their goal of promoting the causes they personally support.
“Our hope is to inspire other sisters and women to bring compassion, philanthropy and tenacity to the world in unexpected ways,” Frugé says.
While Frugé and Earnest are Austin natives, having attended Travis Heights Elementary School and Westlake High School, only Frugé still calls Austin home, as Earnest lives with her family in Dallas now.
One of their favorite events where they offered their auctioneering services was an ’80s-themed fundraiser for Explore Austin. The Siren Sisters got to play along in ’80s aerobics workout gear. They said the event “felt like a giant college party” where bidding was very informal, and everyone had a great time while raising money for a good cause. Another standout auction was a Halloween-themed auction for the Women’s Center of Tarrant County. The Friends of the Children live auction allowed them to offer an incentive: When items were auctioned away to the highest bidder, an identical item was gifted to the organization, like a backyard playscape, for instance.
Their worst experience, the sister say, was at a school fundraiser in Fort Worth, Texas, when Frugé lost her voice onstage. In an anxiety dream come to life, her voice started cracking in the microphone midchant. Earnest tried to signal for her sister to stop talking as the situation got worse. All was saved in the end, but it was a memorable experience, they say.
Looking back on their two-year career, the two words that come to mind for the Siren Sisters are “thrilling and nerve-wracking.”
When the executive directors of the nonprofits they support are happy with the results of the auction and the audience has a good time, the Siren Sisters know they’ve done their job well and can take satisfaction in meeting their own high expectations for their performance. Success comes easily with such a giving standard.