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Upstate New York District Office – November 2022  

u s small business administration

Akwesasne artist pivots her business with the help of SBA

Photo of three people standing in front of basket making supplies

From left to right: Michelle Collins, Business Advisor for SUNY Canton Small Business Development Center, Carrie Hill, owner of Chill Baskets, and Jeffrey Boyce, Albany Branch Manager for the US Small Business Administration.

For Carrie Hill, award-winning artist and owner of Chill Baskets in Akwesasne, N.Y., business and creativity didn’t always seem compatible.

Hill, a Haudenosaunee member from the Akwesasne Mohawk Territory, started making baskets after her second daughter was born in 2006 as a creative outlet. With the help of friends and a trusted business advisor, Hill turned her passion into a successful small business that has not only earned her worldwide recognition but also helped her through difficult times.

“I was resistant at first … going legit was a little scary,” said Hill. “But I wouldn’t have been able to tap into [pandemic relief funds] otherwise, which were absolutely essential in keeping me afloat.”

Accessing local small business support for startup and growth

As part of the Haudenosaunee community with the strongest continuous tradition of the craft, basket making has been in Hill’s family for generations. Hill credits her aunt for teaching her traditional weaving techniques and encouraging her experimentation with new ideas.

After securing her own materials and building a studio next to her house, friends encouraged Hill to consider selling her work, which now includes jewelry, purses and even face masks. Hill decided to officially launch the business after meeting Michelle Collins, Business Advisor at the SUNY Canton Small Business Development Center.

Along with the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe’s Office of Economic Development, Collins guided Hill through startup with bookkeeping and tax basics and, in 2018, Akwesasne Travel brought her in to help as Chill Baskets expanded to educational tours and workshops though the tribe’s Destination Marketing and Management Organization. Hill then began traveling to teach and present around the country.

But when the pandemic hit, all the events and workshops she had booked through fall 2020 were cancelled, along with the checks she had received in advance.

Building resilience with recovery resources

“Everything was gone… March 2020 was a scary time for me as a small business owner who was still catching up to the word business,” said Hill.

Fortunately, Collins remained in touch with her clients to share information about the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) pandemic relief programs, the Paycheck Protection Program and COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loan. Hill worked with her advisor to apply for the funds, which kept her open and helped her pivot to online programming and new platforms like Airbnb experiences.

“I’m like a porcupine, standoffish, but glad I gave her a chance,” said Hill. “I can’t even imagine what would have happened.”

Though the Small Business Development Center is based in Canton, Collins visits the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe every week to meet with entrepreneurs in the Office of Economic Development’s business center. The SBA funds Small Business Development Centers across the country, with several locations throughout Upstate New York, to provide free business consulting and other low-cost technical assistance to small businesses.

Inspiring the next generation of artists

Since she started Chill Baskets, Hill’s work has been featured in the New York Public Library, the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market, and at the U.S. Embassy in Swaziland, Africa with an entire collection representing the Haudenosaunee people. She has been recognized with a number of grants and honors, including a New York Foundation of the Arts grant and a grant announced in June 2022 to partner with the Akwesasne Boys and Girls Club for two years from Creatives Rebuild New York.

Hill shared that pursuing her creative goals is not only important to her personally but also a great way to set an example for her children. She enjoys being able to show them that Chill Baskets creations generate income her family uses to pay for life essentials, and her youngest daughter is even pursuing her own art with graphic design, painting and drawing.

Though Hill said she still wears “one hundred hats” as a small business owner, artist, and mom, she hopes to soon hire an assistant who can help her expand the business while Hill focuses on the artwork.

“If you have a drive to do something creative, you should,” she said. “Pick what makes you happy, and do more of that.”

DEADLINE APPROCHING: 2023 National Small Business Week Awards

Illustration of a trophy with text, 2023 National Small Business Week Awards. Now accepting nominations. The SBA logo is included.


Do you or someone you know have what it takes to become America’s “Small Business Person of the Year” for 2023? If so, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) wants to hear from you. 

The SBA is proud to announce that the Upstate New York District Office is ready to accept nominations for the 2023 National and District Small Business Week Awards, including the annual Small Business Person of the Year Award.

The SBA Upstate New York Award categories in celebration of National Small Business Week include the following:

  • Small Business Person of the Year (National and District)
  • Minority Small Business Champion or Business of the Year
  • Veteran Small Business Champion or Business of the Year
  • Women in Business Champion or Business of the Year
  • Rural Small Business Champion or Business of the Year


The Upstate New York District Office must receive all nominations by electronic submission ONLY to the District’s BOX account no later 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time on December 8, 2022.


WEBINAR: COVID EIDL Repayment: Everything You Need To Know

Covid EIDL

Monday, December 5

11:30 am – 12:00 pm ET

Register here

For many COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) approved by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), initial payments became due in October 2022 and most will become due over the next few months.

Please join us to learn:

  • Covid EIDL terms and conditions and borrower responsibilities
  • Creating a Capital Access Financial System (CAFS) account with SBA to review your loan information and check on payment history
  • Making loan payments electronically and setting up re-occurring loan payments on pay.gov
  • How to request servicing actions on your EIDL loans, such as lien subordination requests, collateral release requests, sale of business, or business closing
  • Where to go for support with planning your payment


SBA programs are extended to the public on a nondiscriminatory basis. Reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities may be made by request in advance to Syracuse.DistrictOffice@sba.gov or 315-471-9393.

Where can I get small business help?


Find your local SCORE Chapter

Veteran-Owned Businesses

Veterans Business Outreach Center Region 2

Women-Owned Businesses

WISE Women’s Business Center


Albany Small Business Development CenterBinghamton Small Business Development Center | SUNY Canton Small Business Development CenterWatertown Small Business Development CenterOnondaga Small Business Development CenterMohawk Valley Small Business Development Center