Carolyn Aronson, the owner of superyacht She’s A 10, entered yachting as a total novice. Now, she’s looking to swap her speedy 50-metre Oceanfast for something even larger, she tells Charlotte Hogarth-Jones
“I think I definitely surprised a lot of people,” says Carolyn Aronson, owner of the 50-metre Jon Bannenberg designed Oceanfast She’s A 10 (formerly known as Mystique), and founder of It’s A 10 Haircare. Having never chartered, or “even been around anyone that had yachts on this level before”, Aronson “dove head first” into yacht ownership six years ago.
“I probably broke all the rules along the way,” she laughs. “When I moved to Harbor Beach [in Fort Lauderdale] I really wanted to own a yacht, and I wanted something that would fit in the back of my yard that was 80ft, 100ft long... I never expected to end up with a 50 metre, but it was a case of go big or go home. My friends and family couldn’t wait to get on board, but I’m sure what they really thought was, ‘What the hell is she getting herself into?’”
No stranger to grabbing life by the horns, Aronson has forged an enormous haircare empire that sells more than $500 million (£354m) worth of products and supplies to salons across the US each year – from chains such as Ulta Beauty and those at JCPenney, to over 25,000 independents. Television adverts for her company have featured during the Super Bowl, she’s recently launched her own makeup line, Be A 10 Cosmetics, hair extensions brand, Ex10sions, and even a record label, It’s A 10 Records, while working to launch other ventures and supporting various philanthropic causes. Her husband Jeff, meanwhile, is the CEO of Kansas-based mixed martial arts promoter Titan Fighting Championships.
Despite never having owned a boat before, Aronson knew she wanted a yacht that she could make her own mark on. It was the end of a two-year search when she “stumbled upon” She’s A 10, after a friend of her friend let her know she was up for sale. “I knew I needed a fixer-upper, and by then I kind of had a feel for what I wanted,” she says. “I walked on it and made a cash offer straight away. I just knew it had great bones.”
It wasn’t just the yacht’s elegant silhouette that helped seal the deal. Aronson is a self-confessed speed junkie, who owns a three-wheel motorcycle and a 1967 Corvette with a 650-horsepower engine, along with other toys. She’s A 10, which can reach 30 knots and has 3,400-horsepower engines, hasn’t disappointed. “When I get on it and we really hit it full throttle, I literally jones,” she enthuses with eyes wide open. “How she cuts through the ocean is just incredible.”
Though she might have begun yacht ownership on the back foot, Aronson has taken great pains to educate herself on “what the inner-workings of owning a boat like this means”, she says. “I probably didn’t investigate it enough at the start, but I got it at a decent enough price. I’ve learned a lot from it, just like I do in business.”
Aronson was born in New Jersey and adopted by parents who were New Yorkers. She grew up in Michigan, and the family would often rent a house on the shore for a month over the summer and whizz around the lakes on smaller boats and jet skis, but they rarely visited the ocean.
“I was a pretty shy child,” she reflects. “Because I was adopted I think my first few years I was probably a little scared, but from there I blossomed as I got older.” Being raised alongside three older brothers “definitely rubbed off” on her, she explains – hence her love of all things fast and furious – although it has to be said, there’s little of the tomboy under her well-groomed and glamorous image. The fact that her father was also a Ford executive probably has something to do with her passion for machines.
“He really worked his way up through the ranks over the years,” she says, and has counselled her throughout her own career. Her mother, meanwhile, was “a very brilliant woman” who graduated from Columbia University, and became a stay-at-home mother to raise the family. Often, says Aronson, she’d study oceanography and educate the children on various sea and marine life; something she’s keen to continue with her own brood.
Aronson and her husband have a large family themselves. At 54 years old, she is currently expecting her fifth child, with four others ranging from age 13 to 20 – although she’s keen to stress that she hasn’t birthed them all herself. “We do have a blended family, and we’re super excited for our fifth to arrive,” she says. She’s A 10 is reserved for precious family time, and Aronson faces the challenges of many parents, trying to combine a hectic business schedule with a full life at home.
“There were times in the beginning where I was working more like 24/7,” she admits, “but making sure they get what they need is my number-one priority, and I’m learning to balance it more. I’m a very high-energy person, so when the kids are in bed I really do get down to it. Sometimes I can be emailing at two or three in the morning, but that’s OK. I take advantage of all my 24 hours.”
Her company and product ranges, she explains, were born out of 20 years’ frustration with what was available on the market while she was working behind the chair as a hairdresser. “My first company [also selling hair products] completely failed, and I learned a lot from that,” she says candidly. “I’ve learned that you have to crawl, then walk, then run, because you can easily over extend yourself if you try and do everything too quickly.”
It’s A 10 began as a self-funded venture, she explains, “without all the big bucks” for marketing and press. Nevertheless, once the first few products found their way into hairdressers hands, “it just snowballed”.
That’s not to say it’s all been plain sailing. “It isn’t easy, or everyone would do it,” she says frankly. “The beauty industry is mainly run by men, and I’m proud to be a female working within it.” She has, she says, felt a sense of the infamous glass ceiling within the industry at times, but adds that “you certainly can’t go into [business] with the perspective of fear”.
“I am seeing more and more female CEOs around the world every year,” she continues, “and I think that’s great. Hopefully sharing how I got here and got over the humps will inspire others to go for it, no matter what they think they can be successful at.”
She’s experienced a similar sense of resistance within the yachting world. “I think there were moments when I was tested, to say the least. I don’t know whether it was because I was a female owner, or because I came in breaking the rules, but I don’t think I really was [accepted].” But, she explains, “I never let it deter me,” adding, “I’m at my happiest when I’m floating.”
After buying the yacht, the first thing Aronson did was change the name to She’s A 10 (“a bit of a no-no”, she admits), as well as upgrade the navy hull to “more of an It’s A 10 blue”. Then, there were some other tell-tale signs that meant “people see me coming”, she laughs – a neon sign, lights on deck that change colour as music is played, a Puerto Rican owners’ flag and other tweaks that “gave it a bit of pop”.
Inside, Aronson harked back to the late 1980s and early 1990s, around the time when the yacht was built, and brought in trinkets by designer Jonathan Adler and “lucites, golds, some of the coolest things that were around right then” to update the look.
“It’s a very expensive venture,” she says, “and there’s a reason why there’s a TV show called Below Deck – I’ve definitely lived a bit of that reality, that drama on board with the crew. I wouldn’t trade it for anything though, because those memories you make, the experiences you have when you’re yachting – there’s just nothing quite like it.”
Some of her fondest memories, she recalls, are from her early days of ownership, when she was single and would often take groups of girlfriends on island-hopping trips in the Exumas. “It’s kind of like Vegas: what happens in the Bahamas stays in the Bahamas!” she laughs. “We just really let loose... jumping off decks, swimming with pigs, swimming with sharks. Just having the time of our lives.”
These days, life on She’s A 10 is a somewhat more sedate affair, and Aronson enjoys listening to music up on the sundeck and eating in the yacht’s formal dining room, which has floor-to-ceiling windows. “As you’re being served the most amazing meal you just stare at the ocean,” she explains. “I don’t think there’s anything better than that.”
Now, She’s A 10 is up for sale with Worth Avenue. “I’ve poured a tonne of money into her, I’ve taken immaculate care of her, and now it’s time for me to pass the torch,” says Aronson. Not that her yachting adventures are coming to an end, of course. “The problem is, once you have one, you always want to go a little bigger,” she laughs, “I absolutely would like another one.” And she’s already on the hunt.
A deeper draught is on her hit list, as is something that can really withstand big seas to allow longer passages on board, where the family can live and work for a month or so at a time.
“It’s hard, because like I said, I’m spoiled,” she says. “I’ll definitely miss the speed – granted, I don’t look at the fuel bill – but soon I’m going to have to putt along like everyone else.” The separate his-and-hers heads in the master suite and her walk-in closet are also things she loves about her current boat, and Aronson says she’s learned that in yachting, “something bigger or newer doesn’t necessarily mean better”.
“It’ll probably take me a while to find because I have a list a mile long of things I want on it, but when I walk in, I’ll know,” she says. “It’s definitely going to be bitter sweet selling She’s A 10 though. There are a lot of touches to this particular boat that are going to be really hard to replace.”
This feature is taken from the July 2021 issue of BOAT International. Get this magazine sent straight to your door, or subscribe and never miss an issue.shop now