Equator Coffees & Teas Founders Named National Small Business Persons of the Year

Equator Coffees & Teas co-founders  Helen Russell and Brooke McDonnell recognized as National Small Business Persons of the Year

Today,  Maria Contreras-Sweet, Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration  recognized and awarded this year’s National Small Business Week national award winners including the Small Business Person(s) of the Year at a ceremony and reception in  Washington, D.C.

“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, Calif.,  are this year’s national Small Business Person(s) of the Year. 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,”  Contreras-Sweet  said. “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.”

“The overall competition was extremely competitive this year.  The highlight of my day was to be able to meet and award every state and territory winner and thank them for all they do for their local economy and America’s small business community. Two out of three net new jobs in America are created by small businesses and it’s all of our small business winners today who are leading the way,”  Contreras-Sweet  added.

This is the first time an LGBT-owned business has won the award. Capital Access Group, a San Francisco-based SBA 504 lender, nominated Equator for the award based on the SBA 504 loan the women received in 2003 to purchase their own 5,500-square-foot roasting plant in San Rafael. Helen calls it œone of the best decisions that we’ve ever made. 
A press conference is scheduled to take place this Friday, May 6, at 2:30 p.m.
œHelen and Brooke are two of the most inspirational small business owners we’ve ever had the privilege of working with, and we are extremely proud of their success,  said Jacklyn Jordan, President and CEO, Capital Access Group. œHelen and Brooke have built a successful, socially responsible business with 90 employees, more than 350 wholesale customers, and three retail stores in Northern California with two more on the way. 
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