King Edward cigars, luxury handbags and Anglo-Saxon coins are among a plethora of rare and vintage items to have been sold at a new North East auction house.

Brilliant Auctions Ltd, which was set up by former teacher Michelle Hill and her business partner, Nic Brereton, has sold over 1,000 items since opening in January 2024.

Based at the North East BIC, the auction house was set up to make auctions more inclusive by removing the formality traditionally associated with auctioneering and creating a friendlier, more welcoming environment.

It is also making it more accessible by hosting some auctions after traditional working hours, 6-8:30pm and on weekends, and soon will be live streaming every auction via a new website.

Michelle said: “I found out last year that my department was set to be impacted by redundancies, so I began thinking of what to do next.

“I’ve always had a love of antiques and all things vintage, but it wasn’t until I was having tea with Nic and his wife, Becky one night that the idea of setting up a new kind of auction house came up.

“Both of us love auctions and Nic already has multiple successful businesses, so we thought, ‘why not?’

“I returned home to the North East and began searching for premises and support and found the BIC, and that was that.”

Support from business adviser John Forth helped finesse their business plan and saw Michelle attend workshops on everything from getting started to managing finances.

It also helped answer their most pressing question… where to set up the business.

Having viewed multiple sites in and around Sunderland, Michelle was given a tour of the BIC’s workspace on the Sunderland Enterprise Park.

Impressed by the 24/7 access and security and its AV-fitted meeting rooms which could be used to host auctions, they signed on the dotted line.

“I did an online search to see what support was available for new businesses and signed up for the BIC’s start-up support,” she said.

“I had a meeting with John and when he showed me around the workspace they offered too, it was almost serendipitous.

“The Thompson Suite is perfect for holding auctions and the staff were so helpful. I applied the following day and within weeks, we were moved in and ready to go.”

Four months since the opening of the auction house and Brilliant Auctions has already facilitated over 1,000 sales on behalf of first-time and professional sellers and has ambitious plans for the future.

“One of the things that has been key to helping us grow so quickly has been our free valuation services and our house clearances which have been a real hit,” Michelle added.

“House clearances are popular within the world of auctioneering but people can be anxious about them. It’s basically an opportunity to have someone take a look at the things you may have sitting there at home which may be of value or of interest to others, and advise on their potential at auction.

“We’ve conducted quite a few since we set up and you wouldn’t believe the things we’ve been able to find and sell. We’ve had rare whiskies, cigars, handbags, coins, vases, you name it.

“Looking forward, our plan is to continue growing our catalogues and really make sure we’re doing everything we can to get more people attending auctions for the first time.

“They’re so much fun and there’s almost always something for everyone, so I’d encourage absolutely anyone to give it a go.”

John Forth, business adviser at the BIC, said: “It’s been fantastic working with Michelle on the launch of Brilliant Auctions and seeing the business grow so rapidly.

“So many businesses success stories stem from their founders having a long-held passion for their subject and this is yet another fantastic example of that.

“I think I speak for everyone at the BIC when I say we’d like to wish them all the best for the future and we look forward to following their journey as they continue to grow.”