Capital Access Group Applauds Equator Coffees & Teas, Winner, U.S. Small Business Administration 2016 Small Business of the Year Award for the state of California

We are thrilled to announce that our client, Equator Coffees & Teas, has been named 2016 Small Business of the Year for the state of California.

Capital Access Group nominated Equator cofounders Helen Russell and Brooke McDonnell 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 “one of the best decisions that we’ve ever made.” Equator now has 90 employees, more than 350 wholesale customers – including the renowned French Laundry restaurant in Yountville, Calif., cafes at LinkedIn and micro-kitchens at Google – and three retail stores in Northern California with two more on the way.

“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,” said Helen Russell, Co-Founder, Equator Coffees & Teas, Inc. “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.”

“We were especially proud to nominate Helen and Brooke for this prestigious award,” said Jacklyn Jordan, President and CEO, Capital Access Group. “These amazing women 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. They are imminently deserving of this award, and we are honored to have played a role in the success of their business.”

In 2011, Equator was the first U.S. coffee roaster to become a certified B Corporation, meeting rigorous environmental and social performance standards. 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, which won the 2016 Good Food Awards. Equator, as part of its social mission, provides 100 percent health insurance to all of its employees.

Already, the kudos for Helen and Brooke’s achievement are pouring in:

In making the announcement, SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet said, “These small business owners represent the best of the best and showcase daily their entrepreneurial spirit and what it takes to be successful in today’s evolving and competitive business environment.”

“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 California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom. “Their example and their achievements set the standard for small businesses to follow and I congratulate them both on their contributions to the community and the state of California.”

“Equator Coffees and Teas say ‘our story lives in every cup of coffee we make,’ and like their intensely loyal customers, we find that story compelling,” said Mark Quinn, SBA San Francisco District Office District Director. “Helen and Brooke support projects around the world that improve quality of life from coffee growing regions to the Tenderloin.”

“Brooke and Helen’s shared love for artisan coffee and a desire to have an impact on an industry with evolving social, economic and environmental issues is profound,” said Chef Thomas Keller, whose restaurants serve its own unique blend of Equator Coffee. “It is their commitment to forging personal relationships with farmers and hands-on approach that make them inspirational leaders and business owners; they are most deserving of this prestigious award.”

Equator will be honored on May 2nd in Washington DC. The event is being held as part of the 2016 National Small Business Week celebration, May 1-7.

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