Offboarding: Theresa Strohmenger’s Journey to Create PINKFISH Boats

Jun 11, 2024 by Kevin Maher

Strohmenger used the knowledge she gained in the yachting industry as a stewardess to build a business and community for yacht stews.

After spending years as a stewardess, Strohmenger moved ashore and started PINKFISH Boats, a yacht interior service that provides superyacht-standard provisioning, detailing, and charter service to boats that don’t have a full-time stew. Strohmenger not only hires freelance stews, but also includes them in her PINKFISH community, offering mental health checks, massage therapy sessions, and training courses. PINKFISH now services yachts along Florida’s Treasure Coast.

How and when did you get into yachting?

As a crewmember, I got into yachting in February 2015. It was a suggestion from a captain friend who is a good friend of my brother. I was working in a corporate job and found it to be fulfilling in a way, but I also wanted to travel more. Although that job allowed me to travel a little bit, I wanted to see more and get back into service. I started working in restaurants when I was in school and I really enjoyed it, but I didn’t think there was much advancement in a waitress position. I went into the corporate world and then when my captain friend introduced me to yachting, I went and took the STCW and got hired on a boat within a month — it was pretty quick.

Why did you decide to go ashore and start PINKFISH?

 I left to start a family and I was getting married. Before, I only took positions like second or junior stew, and right when I was offered my first chief stew position, my dream job, I found out that I was pregnant. Because I had been working for the family for a few years, they moved me ashore to their estate. I grew my family quickly and it became clear that it was too much to be working for just one family. After I left the estate manager position, I went back to the corporate world but I really had the urge to be in yachting again, so I would take little gigs. I would use my vacation time, but I got to the point I really wanted to do it full time again.

 I could have done it just as a freelancer, but the stability was what I really needed. If I didn’t have work, I could continue marketing and have people remember PINKFISH for when they do return. It just made sense to make a brand out of it so that it could be more of a community where I could involve other stewardesses and be a reliable and consistent stream of income.  

 How did PINKFISH start?

My brother, who has a marine-related business as well, is super creative. He sat me down one day and said, “You just need to do your own thing.” He gave me a $500 small business grant and ordered me some supplies, helped me with a logo, and helped me figure out how to start a business as far as the LLC, the insurance, and all those things because he had just done it himself. 

I started working on my own doing freelance detailing and turnarounds, mostly with clients I already had. I began reaching back out to them and letting them know I was back to work on boats and if they needed anything, they could call. And they did. It was really just me doing day work at first. Really quickly it became something that I wasn’t able to handle all on my own — there was just too much of a need. I slowly started bringing in other freelance day workers as freelance contractors. Nobody is bound to PINKFISH in any way other than if they’re available they can work and they’re paid in that way.

How did your experience and connections you made as a stewardess help you grow your business?

 All the training I had received from being a stewardess, not only the relationships, but also the organization, the responsibility, the communication style, the uniform, punctuality — there’s such a strict standard in yachting that really is almost militant and it’s very helpful. Unlike my position in the corporate world in marketing, where I sort of had free reign of back-end duties and I didn’t really have to communicate with many people. My yachting experience not only helped my business approach, but it also created a solid set of standards as a mother too.

What has been your biggest challenge moving ashore and starting PINKFISH? 

Accepting that I now have to pay for housing — I don’t actually have a free place to live. When you’re a full-time crewmember, you have the luxury of being able to stash the money for all the expenses that you would have incurred as a homeowner or a renter, so that’s a challenge as well. I think that’s something that crew should really prepare for from the time they start yachting. Financial responsibility is really important to start as soon as you start yachting because all those expenses magically appear as soon as you leave your full-time position on the boat.

What is your advice to crewmembers wanting to leave the industry and come ashore?

Look at your finances, figure out how much money you’re going to need, how much you’re going to lose with the expensive cost of living, and things like that. Preparation is key and it’s really overlooked. Maybe it’s just the nature of the industry that everything is so fast paced and moving and there’s a lot of last-minute decision making but the best advice is to just prepare. Just as you thought about getting into yachting, think about getting out of yachting and not like in a doomsday version, but just prepare to have a transition and keep those skills that you’ve acquired and use them in whatever role.

What’s next for PINKFISH?

We’re growing right now. We’re trying to get more business, keep advertising, and be creative with new ways of bringing in both stewardesses and boats. This is kind of a random goal, I guess, but we all love candy and flowers — it’s such a huge part of our job with turndowns and table settings — so our five-year goal is to own and have an office/flower shop and candy shop. It will be our place where we not only have our uniforms and all of our supplies for our cleaning in the back, but the front end will be a place where we can sell and showcase all of these wonderful candies and floral designs that we’ve learned over the years. It’s going to be called PINKDISH!



About Kevin Maher

Kevin Maher is Triton's editor-in-chief.

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