8 Black-Owned Marine and Outdoor Businesses to Support

In celebration of Black History Month, we're highlighting eight remarkable Black-owned marine and outdoor businesses, each contributing to the boating culture we all love. 

Black History Month - Businesses

From trailblazing entrepreneurs in yacht charters to marina management and sailing advocacy, these individuals are breaking barriers and fostering inclusivity within the maritime industry.

1. Yacht Club Company | Jon Robert & William Lee

William Lee and Jon Roberts, Black entrepreneurs, turned their pandemic escape into a thriving business with Tulum's premier yacht charter service, the Yacht Club Company.

Lee, a tech founder, and Roberts, a hospitality veteran, transformed their chance meeting into a unique experience for people of color.

The Yacht Club Company stands out with specialized routes, diverse alcohol options, unique yacht experiences, and curated events and food menus tailored for POC. Lee emphasizes addressing the lack of inclusive experiences in tourist areas, making Tulum a destination for Black travelers.

Their decision to bring the Yacht Club concept to Tulum stems from Lee's love for the Yucatan Peninsula's culture and people. 

With a mission to cater to the Black traveler community, they aim to build a global membership program for people of color, providing exclusive events and access to premier locations. 

Partnering with H20sun Cruises, they manage sea vessels and provide employment opportunities for locals. The success in Tulum serves as a model for their global expansion plans, aspiring to be the ultimate hub for yachting and premium experiences worldwide.

2. Riverside Marina | Jason McGuire

One of only 11 African American Certified Marina Managers in the U.S. and the only one in Michigan, Jason McGuire operates Riverside Marina in Detroit. Taking charge in 2012, he led the marina out of bankruptcy to a thriving community with a 100+ person waitlist.

Originally known as Harbor Hill Marina, it was envisioned by former Detroit Mayor Coleman A. Young and Porterfield Wilson, a prominent Black GM and Buick dealer. Wilson aimed to build an inclusive community along the Detroit River that embraced Black boating life. 

Riverside and Erma Henderson Marinas, both in Detroit, are the only marinas in Michigan run and operated by a Black company, making Detroit home to the largest African American boating community in the U.S. 

McGuire aims to continue the legacy, fostering the next generation of Black boaters in Detroit while creating more opportunities for Black Detroiters in the boating industry.

3. Soca Caribbean Yacht Charters | Sheila Ruffin

Soca Caribbean Yacht Charters (SCYC), founded by Sheila Ruffin, a Hampton University and Howard University School of Law graduate, stands out as a unique boutique travel agency owner, breaking barriers in the yacht industry. 

Motivated by her childhood affinity for boats and a desire to address the industry's lack of diversity, Ruffin established SCYC to offer exclusive, all-inclusive yacht vacations in the Caribbean. 

Ruffin challenges the perception that yachting is only for affluent whites, highlighting the untapped market potential among middle-class and wealthy individuals of color. She is working to revolutionize the industry by capturing the attention of those demographics that have been overlooked.

4. Slim Pickins Outfitters | Jahmicah Dawes

Slim Pickins Outfitters holds the distinction of being the first Black-owned outdoor gear shop in the United States. Established by Jahmicah Dawes, the store is driven by a core mission to foster diversity in ownership and leadership roles across the outdoor industry. 

Beyond its extensive range of outdoor gear, Slim Pickins Outfitters also boasts a curated selection of vintage clothing and footwear. Not only that, Slim Pickins Outfitters is deeply committed to enriching the outdoor community through educational initiatives and community events.

They are creating a meaningful space for the local community while catering to the needs of creative outdoor enthusiasts. 

By championing underrepresented voices in the outdoor realm and advocating for inclusivity, the shop is more than a retail store. It is pivotal in broadening access and representation within the outdoor sector.

5. Got The Hook Up Charters | Capt. Brandon Hillard

Capt. Brandon Hilliard, a native of East St. Louis, IL, and U.S. Air Force veteran, owns and operates Got The Hook Up Charters. Specializing in offshore fishing, he transitioned from freshwater to saltwater fishing during his Air Force stint in Fort Walton Beach, FL. 

His charters, led on a 2022 Cape Horn 31T Center Console, accommodate up to 6 passengers. 

Capt. Brandon's expertise includes bottom/reef fishing for Snappers, Groupers, Amberjacks, and Pelagic Species like Mahi-Mahi and Wahoo.

Certified by the United States Coast Guard, Capt. Brandon prioritizes safety. From the Panhandle to the Florida Keys and the Bahamas, Capt. Brandon's excursions promise a memorable adventure, creating lasting memories for everyone on board.

6. Black Girls Dive | Dr. Nevada Winrow and Taylor-Symon Winrow

Founded by Dr. Nevada Winrow and Taylor-Symon Winrow, Black Girls Dive is dedicated to empowering young women of color. By offering access to scuba diving education and education, Black Girls Dive created avenues for personal and professional advancement within the marine industry.

Black Girls Dive fosters the development of essential skills, knowledge, and leadership qualities. Through a diverse array of programs, including introductory diving courses, workshops, and mentorship initiatives, the organization is building up a new generation of leaders in marine conservation.

Black Girls Dive actively collaborates with communities and organizations to advocate for diversity in STEM fields, establishing a supportive network for women pursuing careers in marine science. 

The organization serves as a vital catalyst in dismantling barriers and empowering female leaders to drive meaningful change in ocean conservation and exploration efforts.

7. R&R Surf | Artiss and Arlyn Redmond

R&R Surf, the first Black-owned water sports rental business on the bayfront in Chula Vista, California, was founded by Artiss and Arlyn Redmond.

With Artiss's 25 years and Arlyn's over 21 years of experience in the Navy, including amphibious operations and various vessel types worldwide, the couple combined their knowledge and love for the water to create R&R Surf. 

Their business offers a range of water sports equipment rentals, emphasizing rest and relaxation for locals and visitors alike. R&R Surf represents a significant milestone in promoting diversity and entrepreneurship in the water sports industry while providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all enthusiasts.

8. Be You! Charters | Captain Nashhawn Taylor

Captain Nashawn Taylor, a Black woman and Master Captain, has pioneered a unique venture in the predominantly white leisure boating market. As the brains behind Be You! Charters, the country's premier paint, sip, and sail boating experience, Taylor's journey was marked by adversity. 

Initially a trained police officer, she identified the scarcity of Black women as Master Captains in yacht charters. Taylor strategically joined the marine division of the U.S. Coast Guard, known for its male dominance and elite status, and used it as a stepping stone to enter the yacht industry.

Transitioning from her 22-year career in the police force, Taylor founded Be You! Charters, which offers personalized, stress-free yacht charters in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area.

Positioned as the first Black-owned business of its kind in the DMV, Be You! Charters, based near the National Harbor in Fort Washington, Maryland, invites guests to paint on wine glasses before setting sail for a memorable yacht party.

Follow and Support The Black Boating Community 

As we dive into Black History Month this February, we're excited to spotlight some incredible names in boating. Feel free to check them out! Remember, these Black boaters' talents and contributions are something to celebrate all year round.