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LGBT coffee shop named SBA small business of the year

Brooke McDonnell, left, and Helen Russell, owners of Equator Coffees & TeasBusiness partners Brooke McDonnell and Helen Russell from Equator Coffees & Teas, headquartered in San Rafael, California, have been recognized and awarded this year’s National Small Business Week national award winners including the Small Business Person(s) of the Year.

This makes the coffee company the first LGBT-owned business—certified as an LGBTBE* by the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce—to receive the award.

Equator Coffees & TeasIt 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,” said  Maria Contreras-Sweet, Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration. “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 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.

*INBA members are eligible for LGBT Business Enterprise (LGBTBE) certification at no cost. A primary requirement is 51% of the business must be LGBT owned. INBA currently has two members certified as a LGBT Business Enterprise, for more information on certification, please contact INBA membership manager Christopher Zilar.

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