May 4, 2016 at 1:43 pm EDT | by Staff reports
SBA honors lesbian business owners
Equator Coffees, gay news, Washington Blade

Helen Russell and Brooke McDonnell (Photo courtesy of Equator Coffees & Teas)

The U.S. Small Business Administration this week named two lesbians as its Small Business Person(s) of the Year.

Brooke McDonnell and Helen Russell own and operate Equator Coffees & Teas, which is based in San Rafael, Calif. The company — which began in McDonnell’s garage in 1995 — now has 90 employees and counts the French Laundry restaurant as among its 350 wholesale customers.

SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet noted in a press release that Equator Coffees & Teas plans to open two additional stores in Northern California.

“It all started in 1995 when they started to roast coffee in Brooke’s garage,” she said.

McDonnell and Russell are the first LGBT business owners the SBA has honored as the Small Business Person(s) of the Year.

Equator Coffee & Teas became certified as a National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce LGBT Business Enterprise in 2015.

“The entire LGBT business community and NGLCC family is celebrating this win for Equator Coffees & Teas,” said NGLCC President Justin Nelson in a press release.

The SBA honored McDonnell and Russell on May 2 during a ceremony in D.C. Contreras-Sweet is scheduled to visit Equator Coffee & Tea’s store in San Francisco this week.

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