New Native American business app pushes back on border town spending
A new app and website seek to keep millions of dollars of spending — and sales tax revenue — on the Navajo Nation and other tribal lands by connecting customers with Native-made goods and services. Rez Rising, now in the app store on iPhone, and on Android, includes over 500 Native American-owned small businesses across the Southwest, from jewelers and silversmiths to local grocers, allowing customers to buy direct, buy local, and buy Native, on and off the reservation.
Preview the app online
Visit Rez Rising online at https://rezrising.org/
How it works
Rez Rising is a digital yellow pages for Native American small businesses across the Southwest. Users can search by location, keyword, or business name, and find everything from local food vendors, moccasin makers, contractors, and mechanics to public relations firms. Designed with small businesses on and off the reservation in mind, Rez Rising accommodates informal business hours, mobile business locations, and helps customers understand what forms of payment businesses accept. Because there’s nothing worse than finding the perfect beaded leather belt only to find out that the seller does not accept credit cards.
Native American small business owners can join Rez Rising and list their business on the app and website free of charge.
Keeping dollars on the reservation
A 2012 study conducted by the Navajo Nation estimated that $216 million in sales tax revenue is lost each year to border towns like Farmington, Gallup, and Flagstaff.
“They say the town of Gallup doubles in size on the first Saturday of every month,” says former Gallup resident Heather Fleming (Diné), executive director of Change Labs. “Everyone treks to Walmart to get their shopping done followed by a visit to Cracker Barrel or Applebee’s.” Meanwhile local grocers based on the reservation, like Rocky Ridge Gas & Market run by Germaine Simonson (Diné), are overlooked. We want to change that, bringing needed visibility to small business owners on the reservation with Rez Rising.”
“Another challenge is the tourism industry,” says Singer Horse Capture (Gros Ventre), who led the user research behind Rez Rising. “The Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe have millions of tourists driving across their reservations to get to the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, and Monument Valley, but tourists don’t know where to find Native businesses to support because they aren’t visible. But they are here. We need a way for tourists to connect with local tour guides, buy jewelry directly from artists, and support our food trucks offering traditional foods that you won’t find at Denny’s. We hope Rez Rising will do that.”
The Rez Rising team collected information from over 500 small business owners across the Southwest in 2018 and is working to get more small business owners to sign up.
“Visibility for these businesses could spark so much positive change in our communities,” says Heather Fleming. “Yes, it only improves our economy to buy local, but the lack of data on the number of and the types of businesses — formal or informal — operating on tribal lands hinders reform to the business regulatory environment. To make it easier to grow a business here, we need to demonstrate that there’s a large community that could benefit from reform.”
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez is pushing a “Buy Navajo, Buy Local” campaign to diversify the reservation economy. Tools like Rez Rising fit right in to this effort, leveraging technology to make it easier to do business on the Navajo Nation.
For decades, Native business owners have been excluded from national and global economies due to the persistent lack of infrastructure and challenges of establishing an online presence or a storefront within tribal communities, where internet access and commercial real estate are scarce. Rez Rising is a first-of-its-kind tool that brings needed visibility to these businesses. Whether you live on your nation’s reservation, are part of the Native diaspora, or simply value buying Native as a tourist passing through or from your sofa at home, Rez Rising is a growing platform to connect you with Native-owned businesses across the Southwest.
Rez Rising is an initiative of Change Labs, a Native-led organization supporting Native American entrepreneurs across the Southwest.