2017’s Women at the Helm

17 out entrepreneurs serving as role models for women and LGBTQs with their inspiring success stories.

Owners & Auctioneers, Gray’s Auctioneers
Cleveland, OH


Life and business partners Deba Gray (right) and Serena Harragin met in Key West 22 years ago, shortly after Harragin relocated to the States from Kenya. At that time, Gray, a fine arts and antiques auctioneer, was the youngest-ever licensed female auctioneer in Ohio.

“The auction industry is an extremely chaotic, fast-paced environment in which I happen to thrive,” Gray said. “I have always been passionate about art, furniture and decorations, both new and old. In short, I am an art-spaz.”

A self-proclaimed art school “dropout,” Gray worked for Sotheby’s and Leslie Hindman Auctioneers before starting her own business, which auctions “previously-owned art, furniture, decorative objects, jewelry and rugs.”

“I love using my skills to help clients with their treasured possessions,” Gray said. “An auctioneer is a referee between a buyer and a seller and we protect both. I love my job as I get to research and authenticate rare works of art.”

Harragin formerly worked as the Assistant Finance Director of the Chicago International Film Festival and is now a licensed auctioneer and CEO of Gray Auctioneers.

“Deba and I had to be our own mentors, but we are quick learners and the business keeps teaching us,” Harragin said. “I took the Goldman Sachs small business course in 2014, and my most important takeaway was that we always need to be planning for growth. If you are not growing then you run the risk of losing momentum as a business.”

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