It has never been simple to increase Black people's opportunities in primarily white settings. Unstated regulations and politics in affluent neighborhoods have led to a lack of diversity.
Yachting is no exception. Sheila Ruffin, "The Boss" of Soca Caribbean Yacht Charters, wants to expand the yachting market.
"I wanted to promote yachting to people of color and millennials," Ruffin told MadameNoire. She's shattering elite misconceptions about Black folks. Ruffin says African Americans and Hispanic Americans brought in $222 billion in 2019.
Ruffin said she is surrounded by people of color, which supports the research.
"I tell the yachting business that minorities have money,” she said.
Ruffin attended Howard Law School and Hampton University, which she believes has helped her as the CEO of Soca Caribbean Yacht Charters. She loves Hampton, but she's thankful for the ideals Howard Law instilled in her.
"Successful white yachting men surround me.” Ruffin said her HBCU experience helps her present herself as a member in a room, a boat, or a yacht show. "The spirit of it all makes me a unicorn in a not-so-diverse industry," she remarked. "When Hampton and Howard Law alums and family members support you, you can do it."
Ruffin knows the professional and personal benefits of an HBCU education.
Though she knows HBCUs have family debates, Ruffin says college taught her unexpected lessons that have become lifelong blessings.
“I don't know where else I'd have found Hampton and Howard Law's confidence. Both have left a lasting impression on me.”
Ruffin's boat company benefited from these skills after the outbreak. The corporation has made various changes and timely shifts to stay in business, moving to meet the needs of her clients in a historically uncertain time.
Ruffin said people are hesitant to travel if they have COVID-stricken relatives. “I can't persuade traumatized people because they are so terrified.”
Soca Caribbean Yacht Charters provides day charters to Miami, St. Lucia, and Jamaica. While customizing each experience, they positioned themselves as a safer, more intimate alternative to cruising.
Despite problems. Ruffin is building her reputation as a Black businesswoman in a unique sector.
"As an entrepreneur, I think imaginatively and outside the box. I must shift course."
People should know who they're dealing with. “I'm more than a black woman on a white field. I'm a lawyer,” Ruffin said. "You have to be a shark to survive in an underrepresented industry."
Soca Caribbean Yacht Charters plans to partner with hotels to expand its clients. Ruffin wants to teach students about sailing, boating, environmental law, and marine life. These experiences may help other Black business owners in her sector.
"I see myself as the CEO of that firm, with boat summer camps and wealthy females getting their nails done on a yacht," said Ruffin. "That's amazing."