California-based coffee roaster Equator Coffees & Teas had incredibly humble beginnings as business partners Brooke McDonnell and Helen Russell launched the company out of a small, Marin County garage in 1995. Now, the business employs 90 people, has more than 350 wholesale customers and several properties including its 5,5000 square foot flagship roaster in San Rafael as well as retail cafes at LinkedIn and micro-kitchens at Google.
Now, though, Equator Coffees & Teas has another milestone to be proud of as it has just been named California’s Small Business of the Year by the U.S Small Business Administration. This also makes Equator Coffees & Teas the first LGBT-owned business to win the award, as it is has been certified as an LGBT Business Enterprise (LGBTBE by the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC).
With the win, Equator Coffees & Teas was praised for its commitment to social responsibility. For example, in 2011 the business became the first American coffee roaster to become a certified B corporation which recognised its work regarding sustainable roasting methods, eco-friendly worker housing and more.
Of the Small Business of the Year win, Helen Russell says that:
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 the GGBA for advocating on our behalf, to Capital Access Group for nominating us for this prestigious award and to the NGLCC for being a champion for LGBTBE firms at the national and international levels.
As an entrepreneur, a women-owned business and a LGBTBE-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.”
Jacklyn Jordan, the CEO and president of the Capital Access Group which nominated Equator Coffees & Teas for the award also added that McDonnell and Russell “have not only created a successful, socially responsible business, they have also helped to influence the overall trajectory of the coffee industry through their early support of the Fair Trade movement.”