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Equator’s McDonnell and Russell Named National Small Business Persons of the Year

Brooke McDonnell and Helen Russell of Equator Coffees & Teas.

Brooke McDonnell and Helen Russell of Equator Coffees & Teas.

In March we shared news that 21-year-old roaster/retailer Equator Coffees and Teas was named California Small Business of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Association — no small feat.

Yesterday, Equator founders and partners Brooke McDonnell and Helen Russell received even bigger news as they were named National Small Business Persons of the year during the SBA’s Small Business Week, in front of an impressive field of small business leaders representing all 50 states at a ceremony in Washington D.C. 

Notably, this is the first time in the history of the SBA’s national award that it has gone to the owners of a business certified as LGBT-owned by the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

“It is my extreme pleasure and honor to announce that business partners Brooke McDonnell and Helen Russell from Equator Coffees & Teas headquartered in San Rafael, California are this year’s national Small Business Person(s) of the Year,” said SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet. “It all started in 1995 when they started to roast coffee in Brooke’s garage.  Equator now has 90 employees and 350 wholesale customers including the renowned French Laundry restaurant, cafes at LinkedIn, micro-kitchens at Google and three retail stores in Northern California with two more on the way.

“Helen and Brooke purchased their own roasting plant using an SBA 504 loan.  They have worked diligently with their farmers for 17 years and were one of the first roasters to support the Fair Trade movement to gain better wages for growers.”


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