news Equator Coffees’ Owners Named Small Business Persons of Year
Congratulations to MCBC Sponsors Equator Coffees and Teas, who have been named as Small Business Persons of the Year for California by the US Small Business Administration. The co-founders, Helen Russell and Brooke McDonnell, began roasting coffee 20 years ago in their Marin garage, and have been active in making their facilities bike and pedestrian-friendly, with such projects as the “bikelet” in front of the Mill Valley location.
It is the first time in the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 63-year history that it has selected lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) business owners. The company has also been named the SBA San Francisco District Office’s Small Business of the Year for 2016.
“This celebrated recognition of Helen and Brooke’s outstanding work not only exemplifies what we know of women in business leadership, it also illuminates an answer to the challenge of our time, demonstrating that businesses can be both successful and sustainable,” said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.
“It is such an incredible honor to be recognized by the SBA as Small Business of the Year for the state of California, and we are grateful to Capital Access Group for nominating us for this prestigious award,” she said. “As an entrepreneur, a women-owned business and a LGBT-certified business, I am proud to say that the SBA has been there for Equator at all stages of our growth over the last 21 years. The SBA knows that small businesses like Equator are creating quality jobs and driving our economy. The SBA has had our back at important milestones in our evolution. We celebrate this achievement with our employees, our partners and our collective communities.”
In 2011, Equator was the first coffee roaster in the U.S. to become a certified B corporation, or fair-trade company, meeting high standards of societal and environmental responsibility.
The company works directly with its farmers and was one of the first roasters to support the Fair Trade Certified label to gain better wages for the growers. It also co-owns a sustainably planned farm, Finca Sophia, in Panama. The operation won the 2016 Good Food Awards. Equator, as part of its social mission, provides 100 percent health insurance to all of its employees.
The company’s wholesale programs are in Marin, with shops in Mill Valley and San Francisco. Equator has 90 employees, more than 350 wholesale customers, including the renowned French Laundry restaurant in Yountville, cafes at LinkedIn and micro-kitchens at Google.