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

Mill Valley residents Helen Russell and Brooke McDonnell, the co-founders of Equator Coffees & Teas, are heading to Washington, D.C. in early May to be honored as 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.

When they return, Russell and McDonnell are hosting a celebration with officials from the SBA, the Golden Gate Business Association and Capital Access Group, which nominated the duo for the award. The event, set for May 20 from 5:30-8pm at Equator’s Tam Junction shop at 244 Shoreline Hwy., is open to Equator customers.

“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.”

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