Mark Cuban w: MCS, Helen, Brooke, Maureen

Equator Coffees & Teas named 2016 NATIONAL Small Business of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration in an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. with Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet!

This morning, SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet named Equator Coffees & Teas co-founders Helen Russell and Brooke McDonnell the 2016 National Small Business of the Year! This is the first time an LGBT-owned business has won the award.

“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. “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.”

Capital Access Group nominated Helen and Brooke for the Small Business of the Year 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 “one of the best decisions that we’ve ever made.”

“Helen 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. “Helen 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.”

Here are just a few of Equator’s milestones:

  • First U.S. coffee roaster to become a certified B Corporation
  • Early supporter of the Fair Trade Certified label
  • Certified LGBT-owned business by the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC)
  • Member of the Golden Gate Business Association
  • Included in the SF Business Times’ Top 100 Women-Owned Businesses 12 years in a row
  • Ranked No. 6 in the SF Biz Times’ first-ever Top 25 LGBT-owned businesses in the Bay Area

Read the Administrator’s press release here.