U.S. Small Business Administration Makes History by Selecting NGLCC Certified LGBT Business as a Small Business of the Year

NGLCC and San Francisco’s GGBA Applaud Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet for SBA’s selection of Equator Coffees & Teas as 2016 California Small Business of the Year

March 15, 2016
WASHINGTON D.C./SAN FRANCISCO, CA — The National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), along with its San Francisco local affiliate Golden Gate Business Association (GGBA), congratulate U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Maria Contreras Sweet on the selection of Equator Coffees & Teas as the 2016 California Small Business of the Year. This marks the first time in history that a certified LGBT Business Enterprise (LGBTBE ®) has been selected as a statewide winner of this prestigious award.
Partners in life and business, Helen Russell and Brooke McDonnell are Co-Founders of the San Rafael, California-based Equator Coffees & Teas, Inc, which was founded in 1995. Equator now has 90 employees, more than 350 wholesale customers—including Chef Thomas Keller’s Michelin Guide three-star French Laundry located in Yountville, CA, cafes at LinkedIn and micro-kitchens at Google—and three retail stores in Northern California with two more on the way. Equator became a certified LGBTBE by the NGLCC in 2015 and is an active member of the GGBA. 
“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.”
“The entire LGBT business community and NGLCC family is celebrating this win for Equator Coffees & Teas,” said NGLCC Co-Founder and President Justin Nelson. “NGLCC certified LGBTBEs continue to lead innovation and job creation throughout the country, and seeing our partners at the SBA recognize the impact one of our distinguished businesses is making in the community is a proud, precedent-setting moment for our global movement toward LGBT economic opportunity for all.”
This announcement underscores the commitment the SBA is making to identifying, supporting, and growing LGBT-owned businesses through its historic partnership with the NGLCC.  The LGBT Business Builder program is currently in its second year touring throughout the United States brining information on accessing SBA capital and mentorship programs, along with NGLCC certification and local affiliate programming, to LGBT entrepreneurs and corporate partners nationwide.
“As the Nation’s first LGBT Chamber of Commerce, the GGBA is proud that one of our most outstanding members has become the first LGBT-owned/certified business in the history of the SBA to be named the California Small Business of the Year.  With California being the 8th largest economy in the world, SBA’s recognition of Equator will have a national and global impact” stated GGBA President, JP Leddy.
“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.”
“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” said Helen Russell, Co-Founder, Equator Coffees & Teas, Inc. “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. 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.”
Helen and Brooke started their business in 1995 just as the specialty coffee industry was heating up. Brooke was frustrated that roasters offered little or no information with regard to the farms, farmers, elevation and climate where coffee was grown. That’s when they decided to begin roasting their own coffee, and Equator Coffees & Teas was born. 
Equator will be honored on May 2nd in Washington DC. The private event is being held as part of the 2016 National Small Business Week celebration, May 1-7. 
About the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce: The National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) is the business voice of the LGBT community and is the largest global not-for-profit advocacy organization specifically dedicated to expanding economic opportunities and advancements for LGBT people.  NGLCC is the exclusive certification body for LGBT-owned businesses.   www.nglcc.org
About the Golden Gate Business Association: Founded in 1974, the Golden Gate Business Association (GGBA) is the nation’s first LGBT Chamber of Commerce. With nearly 400 members who live and do business across San Francisco, Marin, San Mateo, Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, the GGBA proudly serves as the voice for the San Francisco/Bay Area’s LGBT business community.  GGBA’s mission is to champion opportunity, development and advocacy for our LGBT and Allied business community.  
Jonathan Lovitz
Vice President of External Affairs, NGLCC
jlovitz@nglcc.org | 954-695-5896
This press release can also be viewed as a PDF here.



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