Ah-Shi Beauty, Navajo-Owned Skincare Line, Empowers People of Color

Ah-Shi Beauty debuted online at ahshibeauty.com on July 4, and pre-orders begin shipping tomorrow, August 1. (Instagram @ah.shi.beauty / instagram.com/ah.shi.beauty)

The word Ah-Shi is a Navajo word. It means: This is me; this is mine.

To Ahsaki Báá LaFrance-Chachere, wellness implies an integrity of self. As a half Navajo and half African American woman, raised in Besh-Be-Toh on the Navajo Reservation in Northeastern Arizona, she desired to see more people of color represented in the luxury beauty market.

She created Ah-Shi Beauty, her luxury skincare line, for two key reasons: 1) to balance her skin with all-natural, botanical-based products, and 2) to create a brand and space where people of color, and particularly Native Americans, are not only represented but uplifted, encouraged and inspired.

LaFrance-Chachere has a dynamic understanding of the way health radiates from inside-out. Ah-Shi Beauty is more than a skincare and beauty line; it’s a mission to “spread positive vibes” and encourage people of color to let their beauty and power shine.

LaFrance-Chachere recently challenged her social media followers: “Take a picture and show us what makes you unique. Show us your beautiful self.”

“They went along with it. I’ll be giving every single one of my contestants who entered [Ah-Shi Beauty] gifts, because they deserve it,” she said. “They’re on board with my mission and the concept of my brand.

“From what I know so far, no Native-owned luxury skincare line exists. I want this line to be in Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, and Harvey Nichols overseas. I feel like people may not see Native people as luxury. But if you look at our beadwork, our silversmith work, our rugs—those are luxury. Our homeland is luxury. I want to make that statement: We, too, are luxury,” LaFrance-Chachere said.

“Luxury is about more than being glamorous in the city. Luxury is us, too, as Native people, and us, too, as Western people. We need to be recognized as luxury,” she emphasized.

Ahsaki Báá LaFrance-Chachere (Courtesy Ah-Shi Beauty)

Building Ah-Shi Beauty

LaFrance-Chachere is no stranger to entrepreneurship. In February 2016, she launched Four Arrows, shopfourarrows.com, creating western-style leather boots for rodeo hands.

While growing her boots and western clothing business, she researched skincare on the side.

“Honestly, I’ve been dealing with my own skincare issues, and I’ve been very passionate about [the best] skincare. A lot of women and men are battling their skincare issues. I thought, let me dig deep, and see what I can do to help myself and others,” LaFrance-Chachere said.

The skincare business involves extensive research and fees, so LaFrance-Chachere saved her own money for startup capital, setting aside every penny over the course of four years. Putting $200-400 aside monthly, she began production of Ah-Shi Beauty with $15,000 in the bank. “I didn’t take out any loans,” she shared.

But before diving into research and development in the lab, LaFrance-Chachere experimented with a variety of skin cleansers, toners, moisturizers and every popular product on the market—from low-end to high-end. Dior to Proactiv, LaFrance-Chachere has tried it. Some products worked well; others dried her skin out.

LaFrance-Chachere chose to concentrate her skincare line on natural ingredients and balance. She and her business partner, her former Arizona State University chemistry classmate, eschewed harsh chemicals in favor of botanical bases.

Her skincare collaborator, who specializes in pharmaceuticals, broke down the chemistry in layman’s terms for LaFrance-Chachere, helping her to understand how the combination of various extractions of botanicals and plants influence one another.

“Each ingredient can be enhanced by another,” shared LaFrance-Chachere, who has become quite the alchemist herself.

“They’re all-natural extracts that rebalance your skin. We wanted this to be simple and not complicated, because life is already complicated enough,” she said.

LaFrance-Chachere also underscored how finding balance in one aspect of life naturally affects another. “Balance in skincare is connected to your health, mental health and overall well-being. I’m trying to balance my whole world,” she said.

When her skincare formula was ready, and a Toronto-based manufacturer secured, she built her e-commerce site on Squarespace. “It was easy to learn,” she said of the platform.

LaFrance-Chachere aims to have an Amazon account up and rolling by next week. “Eventually I want to be in high-end retail stores. But for the meantime, e-commerce is my best friend,” she said.

She also intends to put her products in smaller retail shops, starting with the Navajo Reservation, “so that people who don’t have Internet access, or who like to go to the store nearby, can also have access to my skincare line,” she said.

Growing Ah-Shi Beauty

LaFrance-Chachere is a Navajo woman on a clear path. She has a vision for where she is headed—and she’s supporting fellow people of color along the way.

“In five years, I see Ah-Shi Beauty in high-end stores across the United States with Native models and colored models as our main focus point. In 10 years, I see Ah-Shi Beauty as internationally known. In return, I want to create a scholarship for my Native American and African American people, or anybody of color. I want to give back soon,” LaFrance-Chachere said. “I want to create jobs for my people—on the reservation, off the reservation. I am building an empire to represent myself, my family and my people.”

But the ambitious Navajo entrepreneur is just getting started. “I plan to launch a cosmetic line with makeup in 2019,” she added.

Eventually, she also wants to create a business-casual clothing line, “like Vera Wang for boss babes” with prices like Express. “For now, I’m concentrating on Ah-Shi Beauty.”