While many found themselves unsure of their next steps when the pandemic hit, Bec McKeever and Dominique Smit found themselves getting the push they needed after years of debating the idea of moving the purser role ashore. In September 2020, the pair launched Virtual Pursers, a worldwide shoreside solution for onboard yacht administration with a physical presence in Asia-Pacific and Europe.
McKeever and Smit first met in 2015 working aboard Feadship M/Y Hampshire II, where they formed an unbreakable bond and friendship from the start. Although Smit is finishing up some temp assistance on M/Y Nirvana, prior to this she had been working within the fleet for over three years, finishing on M/Y Barbara in February 2020, and McKeever recently finished up her last two years as purser on 75-meter M/Y Cloudbreak. Between the two of them, they’ve spent more than 20 years in the yachting industry.
“Both of us had hit a ceiling,” McKeever says. “We absolutely love yachting and our careers, but being ambitious and driven people, we felt that we had outgrown our onboard roles.”
Starting life ashore was a conversation that came up often among senior interior crew, and they were constantly wracking their brains on what to do next. When the pandemic forced businesses to quickly adapt to remote working, Smit says, “It was a lightbulb moment as the role is already largely virtual.”
Using systems and programs of the captain’s preference, Virtual Pursers aims to save time and money, along with alleviating stress from senior crew and captains. They oversee all tasks that an onboard purser would, just virtually, including general administration and financial affairs, itinerary planning, and vessel logistics and movements.
Virtual Pursers has also partnered with yacht management software DeepBlue Soft on their financial module, which is extremely customizable and includes detailed financial reporting and information that can be easily accessed by captains and management.
“We wanted to start a business that enabled not only us, but other women in our position to continue their careers in the industry we all love,” McKeever says. “That’s how Virtual Pursers came about, an obvious choice because we’re both very experienced and can provide the same excellent service ashore.”
Their eventual goal is to cement Virtual Pursers as the go-to shoreside solution and keep valuable expertise within the industry by offering experienced pursers the opportunity to move ashore and start a family while continuing their careers. They have carefully and meticulously laid out their plans to be around for a long time, leading them to describe themselves as “the purser you’ll never lose!”
While Smit admits that starting a company during these times was always going to be a bit daunting, the response they’ve received has been positive within the yachting industry and beyond. And despite the distance, the pair have had a great time turning their vision into a reality and say it’s been effortless to work together.
“Launching the company has been a dream come true,” McKeever says. “We are so excited to continue to develop and grow the company for years to come.”