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

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

May 2, 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 Equator Coffees & Teas for being named the 2016 National Small Business of the Year by U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Maria Contreras Sweet. This announcement coincides with National Small Business Week and follows the announcement earlier this year naming Equator Coffees & Teas the California Small Business of the Year. This marks the first time in history that a certified LGBT Business Enterprise (Certified LGBTBE®) has been selected as both a statewide and national winner of this prestigious 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.  It 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 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,” continued Administrator Contreras-Sweet.  “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.”
Equator became an NGLCC certified LGBTBE® 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 LGBTBE companies® 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 National Small Business of the Year,” stated Paul Pendergast, Interim GGBA President.
“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, 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. 
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
[email protected] | 954-695-5896

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