San Rafael’s Equator Coffees & Teas is nation’s Small Business of the Year

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One month after being named Small Business of the Year in California, San Rafael-based Equator Coffees & Teas was named Small Business of the Year for the entire country.

It’s an award given out by the U.S. Small Business Administration, and the win is special for another reason: Equator is the first LGBT company ever to get the award.

The business was awarded at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. Monday, May 2, and was awarded by Maria Contreras-Sweet, administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

“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,” Contreras-Sweet said in a news release.

The 21-year-old company began in 1995, when Russell and McDonnell started roasting coffee in McDonnell’s garage. The two, Russell said in a previous interview, are “partners in life and in business.”

The company has since grown to 90 employees, 350 wholesale customers including 30 in Sonoma County. The company now also operates three retail shops in the Bay Area, two in Mill Valley, and one in San Francisco. By the end of the year, the company expects to add three more storefronts to their already impressive tally: One in Larkspur, San Francisco, and Oakland.

In an interview with the Press Democrat last month, Russell said that Equator’s revenues grew by $3 million last year to $12 million. This year, she said, they expect to total $15 million.

Equator coffees are served at Thomas Keller’s French Laundry restaurant in Yountville, 200 “micro kitchens” at Google’s South Bay campus and in Sonoma County at Sonoma State University’s Green Music Center, various restaurants and markets, and such employers as Amy’s Kitchen and Cowgirl Creamery.

You can reach Staff Writer Christi Warren at 521-5205 or christi.warren@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @SeaWarren.

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