Colorado teachers earned almost 36% less than other workers with college degrees in 2021. Currently, the salaries of educators are not enough to keep up with inflation nationwide. Because of this many have second jobs. With teachers struggling financially, Anne Blackburn hopes to lend a hand to educators and provide them a space where they can apply training in education to other fields. She’s worked with teachers from almost every district in Colorado doing estate sales.
“I wanted to keep my business model where I want to continue to support teachers,” Blackburn said.
“Teachers have amazing hearts. They know how to interact with lots of different types of people in very difficult situations. They’re the perfect people to have on staff because they’re incredibly hardworking and adaptive and flexible,” Blackburn said. “I trust their instincts and they are just great with people and courteous, kind, and compassionate, and they get it done.”
Before launching her third career, Blackburn was an English teacher then assistant principal and dean for over eight years. A quiet call from a distance began telling her to return to her roots.
“Each reason for needing an estate sale is unique and your needs are unique. My approach is I don’t come in with a cookie-cutter formula.”
Anne is the owner of a company called Heritage Estate Sales. Although the shift from principal to running estate sales may seem like a big one, she said it’s a culmination of all her life experiences.
“Starting this estate sale company felt in a way kind of a return to my roots. Combining all of the things that I know, learned, and experienced and then bringing it all to bear on something new and something entrepreneurial.”
Blackburn does online auctions to reach a wider audience and maximize her clients’ sales. She meticulously photographs and researches items. Once the catalog is published she keeps her clients informed on the rhythms and progress of the sale. Bids pick up as the deadline nears and Blackburn’s excitement is palpable as the auction comes to a close. On pickup days she manages the traffic as crowds of people gather their items in a short window of time. When it’s all over she manages the money too. Her hired teachers are key in creating not only efficient pickup days for clients, but also in helping Blackburn overcome problems that come with planning estate sales.
“I love just giving a teacher a problem and watching the imagination and innovation sparks fly and watch the creativity that comes with it. ”
Growing up in Kansas, Blackburn was exposed to working with people in transition and desperate situations. Living in Tornado Alley, she witnessed the impact storms had on communities. Blackburn would go with her father, Rolf Thingelstad, to help those in need.
“You see people at their most vulnerable and then you see looters come in and want to prey upon vulnerable people. You know, it just brings up in you this incredible protective nature.”.
Blackburn said she sees a similar pattern of human behavior when it comes to estate sales. It brings out the best and the worst in people. The community gathers around the loved ones of someone who’s passed while others stake their claim on a cheap weed eater or T.V. Social media has given rise to the popularity of estate sales being places to find great deals on valuable items such as clothing or furniture.
“There are a lot of Tik Tok influencers out there who boast about the great deals that they got and they do it in such a way that they’re so proud of how they took advantage of somebody at an estate sale,” Blackburn said.
Anne explained that the bereaved or those who are downsizing to move often don’t correctly price objects because they’re unaware of an object’s value. They’re also working against the clock or suffered a tragedy. TLC is required.
“If you’re at an estate sale home, treat their home with how you would want somebody to treat your mother’s home, walking into her house and looking at her stuff and picking it up and looking at it, you know, be respectful, be kind, be compassionate,” Blackburn said. “I started this company because of what I was seeing. I knew I had something to offer.”
Blackburn draws a great deal of inspiration to start her estate sale company from her father, Rolf, who she described as “the smartest man” she ever knew. Her father was an immigrant who moved to the U.S. around the end of World War II. Growing up, her father was always working on remodeling houses or being a handyman, working for every house on both sides of the block.
“It didn’t really hit me until later what that meant,” Blackburn said. “He never had to advertise and it was because of how he treated people. Not only did he do a good job and charge a fair price, he was a man of integrity and honor and respect.”
Like her father, Blackburn’s business also runs on referrals. It’s also unique in the way she chooses to combine education and estate sales. Blackburn connects the two by reflecting on her experiences working with people in transition, in trauma, and in difficult situations. She’s compassionate and flexible in working with people and it all stems from training in trauma-informed care and social-emotional learning that is necessary when working in education.
“Estate sales and education, surprisingly, have a lot of crossover skills and experiences,” Blackburn said.
The experiences and training that Blackburn has gained from working in education and by following in her father’s steps shape her approach to estate sales by creating a company that molds into a client’s needs.
“Whatever people have chosen to have in their home, it’s precious to them. It has value to them or it meant something otherwise they wouldn’t have chosen to put it in their home,” Blackburn said. “I love that aspect of just seeing what choices did somebody make in their art, their lamps, their furniture. That’s fun to see and to get to see people’s different styles and personalities.”