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For the first time in its 63-year history, the U.S. Small Business Administration has selected LGBT business owners as the Small Business Persons of the Year for California with the honours going to two women from Marin County.

The company has also been named the SBA San Francisco District Office’s Small Business of the Year for 2016.

Founded by partners Helen Russell and Brooke McDonnell, they launched in 1995 in a Marin County garage and now operate a robust wholesale business, as well as three retail stores with two more coming soon.

California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom said in a statement: “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.”

In addition to its commitment to great customer service and fair trade for its suppliers, Equator is also committed to providing high-quality jobs for employees. And as part of its social mission, they also provide 100 percent health insurance coverage to all of their employees.

“It is such an incredible honour to be recognised 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.”

Russell and McDonnell will be formally honored at a ceremony in Washington D.C. on May 2.


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