Equator Coffees & Teas co-founders Brooke McDonnell and Helen Russell. Photo by Alex Salkever.

Mill Valley residents have long known what a gem we have in the two Equator Coffees & Teas shops in the 94941.

And while the secret has long been out – Equator’s got a shop in San Francisco, more on the way in SF and Larkspur and an ever-burgeoning wholesale business – they’ve now caught the attention of U.S. government.

Equator co-founders Helen Russell and Brooke McDonnell have been named the 2016 Small Business Persons of the Year for California, the first time in the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 63-year history that it has selected lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) business owners. In addition to that, Equator was also named SBA San Francisco District Office’s Small Business of the Year for 2016.

“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 Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Russell and McDonnell and SBA awards-winners from the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands have been invited to attend ceremonies in Washington, D.C., on May 1-2. 

“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,” Russell told the North Bay Business Journal. “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.”

Go here for the full story.

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