Black-Owned Yacht Charter Business Launched by HBCU Alum
Soca Caribbean Yacht Charters is a new boutique travel agency founded by a Hampton University and Howard Law School graduate Shelia Ruffin. Growing up on the eastern shore of Virginia, Ruffin always had an affinity for boats. Her grandfather was an avid boater and this allowed her the opportunity to spend her childhood on the water.
Ruffin eventually attended law school but failed to pass the bar on the first try. This led her to land a job on the island of St. Thomas where she decided to practice law. While there, Ruffin decided to become a certified travel associate, but she wanted to do more than just be a travel agent.
“I googled yacht agencies that were one-stop-shops, but I couldn’t find any,” Ruffin told Travel Noire. “This gave me an idea of what I could do. Plus, I couldn’t find any people of color within the industry. Therefore, I set out to start my own company.”
From there, Soca Caribbean Yacht Charters (SCYC) was born.
“We offer a door to dock-to-door service,” Ruffin said. “The minute you step out of your home, there is a luxury car waiting to take you to the airport. Once you arrive in your Caribbean destination, we provide transfers to the dock where you board your yacht. After your trip, we also provide all services in reverse.”
SCYC works with yacht companies in the Bahamas, Grenada, St. Lucia, the British Virgin Islands, St. Vincent and St. Martin. The company provides access to yachts featuring a private chef and captain.
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“To be the anchor between the yacht industry and millennials and people of color is amazing,” Ruffin said. “It’s not easy. I’m entering into space where black women aren’t normally present. It’s an amazing feeling.”
SCYC also wants to encourage people of color to experience the high-end luxury yacht experience. Ruffin told the Miami Times, in 2018 black people “contributed $63 billion to America’s travel and tourism industry and Hispanic Americans contributed $56 billion.”
With that type of tourism purchasing power, this black-owned company looks to gain increased market share in the Caribbean.