Native American small businesses struggle through unequal COVID-19 impact

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A Navajo woman with ties to the Houston area is determined to keep her small business afloat despite the devastation of the pandemic in her tribal community.

"For so many years we have had no face or representation in the beauty industry," said Ahsaki Chachere, the creator of Ah-shi Beauty.

The makeup and skincare line was founded in 2012 and was inspired by Chachere's Native American culture, which she says pushed her to make beauty products that were inclusive to all skin tones.

She grew up on the Navajo Nation in Beshbeto, Arizona, but spends a lot of time in southeast Texas.

She is married, and her husband is from the Houston area.

Her business initially was online-only, but over the course of several years, Chachere managed to open up two stores in Gallup, New Mexico, and the other in Window Rock, Arizona, which is the capital of the Navajo Nation.



Both stores are now temporarily closed due to the spread of COVID-19 that has hit the Navajo Nation especially hard.

The Navajo Nation store had only been open one week before Chachere made the decision to close in early March.

"Sure enough, a week after (opening) I voluntarily shut down because as a business owner my staff and customers' well being is my top priority," she said.

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"For so many years we have had no face or representation in the beauty industry," said Ahsaki Chachere, the creator of Ah-shi Beauty.



The nation is home to approximately 173,000 people and recently surpassed New York City with the highest rate of COVID-19 infections, per capita.

As of Tuesday, there are more than 5,400 confirmed cases of the virus with 248 deaths and 1,920 recoveries.

"My close family in Beshbeto haven't been infected, thank God," Chachere said. "But my extended family, we heard they did and are recovering."



Strict curfews on the nation along with business closures continue to keep Ah-shi Beauty stores closed and Chachere says she doesn't know when she will open back up.

She is currently in Houston and working to make business connections to possibly bring her third store to the area.

"I'm trying to create this Native town here in Houston because we need it," she said.

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