Capital Access Group Applauds Equator Coffees & Teas, Winner, U.S. Small Business Administration 2016 California Small Business of the Year

a commercial real estate lender specializing in U.S. Small Business
Administration (SBA) 504 loans for growing businesses, congratulates
Helen Russell and Brooke McDonnell, cofounders of Marin County- based Equator
Coffees & Teas, Inc
., on their selection as the SBA’s 2016
California Small Business of the Year. Capital Access Group provided SBA
504 financing in 2003 for Equator to purchase its own, 5,500-square-foot
roasting plant which Helen calls “one of the best decisions that we’ve
ever made.”

“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.”

Founded in 1995 , Equator now has 90 employees, more than 350 wholesale
customers—including the renowned French Laundry restaurant in
Yountville, CA, cafes at LinkedIn and micro-kitchens at Google—and three
retail stores in Northern California with two more on the way.

“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

“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,” said
Helen Russell, Co-Founder, Equator Coffees & Teas, Inc. “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

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 roast their own coffee, and Equator was born.

In 2011, Equator was the first U.S. coffee roaster to become a certified B
, meeting rigorous environmental and social performance
standards. The company works directly with its farmers and was one of
the first roasters to support the Fair
Trade Certified
label to gain better wages for the growers. It also
co-owns a sustainably planned farm, Finca
, in Panama, which won the 2016
Good Food Awards
. Equator, as part of its social mission, provides
100 percent health insurance to all of its employees.

“Equator Coffees and Teas say ‘our story lives in every cup of coffee we
make,’ and like their intensely loyal customers, we find that story
compelling,” said Mark Quinn, SBA San Francisco District Office District
Director. “Helen and Brooke support projects around the world that
improve quality of life from coffee growing regions to the Tenderloin.”

“Brooke and Helen’s shared love for artisan coffee and a desire to have
an impact on an industry with evolving social, economic and
environmental issues is profound,” said Chef Thomas Keller, whose
restaurants serve its own unique blend of Equator Coffee. “It is their
commitment to forging personal relationships with farmers and hands-on
approach that make them inspirational leaders and business owners; they
are most deserving of this prestigious award.”

Equator is a member of the Golden
Gate Business Association
, a certified LGBT-owned business by the National
Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
(NGLCC), and for 12 years, the
company has been included in the San Francisco Business Times Top
100 Women-Owned Businesses
. The Business Times also included
Equator as No. 6 in the Top
25 LGBT-owned businesses
in 2015.

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 Capital Access Group: Capital Access Group is a leading
statewide Certified Development Company based in San Francisco,
authorized by the U.S. Small Business Administration to provide
long-term, fixed-rate financing through the SBA 504 loan program, which
offers 90 % financing to business owners for the purchase, renovation,
or construction of commercial real estate for their growing businesses.
Founded in 1981, Capital Access Group has helped thousands of
entrepreneurs grow their businesses and realize their dreams of owning
their own buildings. Currently, the SBA 504 interest rate is 4.55%,
fully amortized and fixed for 20 years. For more information, please


for Capital Access Group
Ken Stram, 415-652-3610