Voices for Change is PEOPLE's editorial series committed to elevating and amplifying the stories of celebrities and everyday people alike who are dedicated to making change and uplifting others in the fight for racial justice, gender equality, LGBTQ+ rights, climate action and more.

By Sara Gaynes Levy
July 12, 2021 09:00 AM
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Tia the Crabber
Credit: Salt and Stone Digital

In 2018, Tia Clark founded Casual Crabbing with Tia (now one of Airbnb's top experiences in the world), to share her passion for catching crabs with visitors to her hometown of Charleston, South Carolina. The fishing and crabbing industries skew heavily male, but Clark believes the happiness and satisfaction she gets from the process of catching and learning about crabs should be accessible to anyone and everyone. As part of PEOPLE's Voices for Change series, Clark, who is also an ambassador for the new Rheos x Southern Tide sunglass collection, shares her experiences starting her own crabbing business, and how she's spreading her passion to everyone who books a session with her.

Charleston is my hometown. I was born and raised right in the city. But I had never even been crabbing until about four years ago. I was in the food and beverage industry. I've done every aspect, from washing dishes to being in a prep kitchen to managing bars, which is what I did for 15 years.

Food and beverage—like almost every industry, if we're being honest!—is male-dominated. Pretty much every single position I was in, there was a man in the role above me. I believe I got ahead because my mother and grandmother instilled in me a really good work ethic.

Growing up, I was always the only girl— I didn't want to play with dolls, I wanted to play sports. I was very active. So I was used to being the only woman, and I know how not to give up.

Tia the Crabber
Credit: Salt and Stone Digital

Initially, I found crabbing because I wanted to get healthy. I quit smoking, changed my diet, and I was looking for a way to be more active. I told my cousin this, and he invited me to go crabbing with him. That was it. After he showed me how, I went crabbing every single day. I would get off work at 2 a.m. and set an alarm for three hours later to wake up and go back out to cast the net for two hours, every single morning. I loved it.

After a few months, one of my buddies made a Facebook page called "Casual Crabbing with Tia," sharing photos of my crabbing excursions. People started messaging me, wanting to come crabbing with me. I wasn't sure. I had never really seen myself as a teacher, but he told me people would really enjoy doing it with me.

Honestly, I thought there was no chance I would turn it into a business. Everyone else doing this was male. It's nothing but men! There were no women doing what I was doing. I didn't own a boat! There was no example, no template. I didn't think I could be successful. But one of my work friends talked me into taking their family out.

After that, they sent me a link to [apply to] the Airbnb experiences. I told my wife, again: "There's no chance." But she filled out the form for me, submitted it, and they accepted it. In July of 2018, I hosted my first Airbnb experience. I applied for a business license. I still hadn't quit my other job, but soon enough, I told my wife, "I have to do this. I'm gonna make less money. But I have to do this."  I now have more than 400 five-star reviews.

Tia the Crabber
Credit: Salt and Stone Digital

Nobody thinks they're creating something that's going to be real. But this is. You know those commercials where you see somebody waking up and smiling and you're like, Nobody wakes up in the morning like that? I've started being that person.

It's about so much more than just crabbing. I don't want another person, especially a kid like me in downtown Charleston, to grow up living as close as we do to the water and not being able to make that connection with it. My goal is to take people crabbing, yes, but it's also to make crabbing a thing.

What I feel out next to that water is real joy. I now know more than I ever have about my hometown, my environment, and the things that surround me just by being next to the water. It's never been about building a business for me. It's about this unbreakable bond I now have with the salt water, and sharing it. There's so much power in that.

This is the most vulnerable I've ever been in my life, but it's also the most successful I've ever been. Now I know: You don't have to be a man. You don't have to own a boat! [All of Tia's crabbing experiences are land-based.] You can be successful on the water.

Almost every single day, I have a moment with my guests where I can show them that. They've heard my story, and they're coming out and saying Oh my God, when I saw that there was a woman doing this, I was so excited. I had to come meet you. Last week, I had a woman who brought her two daughters because she heard me on a podcast. I never thought in my life that people would see me as a role model or a teacher. It was awesome.

Tia the Crabber
Credit: Salt and Stone Digital

There are still moments that feel crazy and scary to me, as a woman. Like somebody is going to try and take it all away. On the dock with me most days is one of my besties, Art. He is a white male and when we are on different docks taking folks crabbing there are always a few curious bypassers. There is a running joke between us, because Art and I could be on the dock setting up, and most males would walk past me and go directly to him to start asking about my gear and what we are doing. Art always laughs and points out to them that they walked right by the woman that could answer all their questions. No one expects the woman to be in charge on the water, right?

I don't know that there will ever be a time that I don't feel that way. I don't know if women will ever dominate the fishing industry. But the times, they are a-changing. Crabbing has changed my life. And I'm watching it change other people's lives every single day.

Voices for Change is PEOPLE's editorial series committed to elevating and amplifying the stories of celebrities and everyday people alike who are dedicated to making change and uplifting others in the fight for racial justice, gender equality, LGBTQ+ rights, climate action and more.