After a 3 year hiatus for a Startup Grind presence in Marin, we are launching Marin's own chapter of Startup Grind! We'll have a Fireside Chat with national award-winning EQUATOR COFFEE's CEO/Co-founder Helen Russell, followed by an End of the Year Holiday Party for you Marin Grinders!
6p to 6:20 — Informal meet & greet networking
6:20 to 6:30 — Brief intro of Startup Grind & VenturePad
6:30-7p — Fireside Chat with CEO/Co-founder Helen Russell
7-8:30 — Holiday Party
Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer As a co-founder and CEO, Helen leads Equator forward. Under her leadership for more than 23 years, Equator has grown from a small roaster and wholesale supplier into a national brand known for its values–driven approach, award-winning coffee and impactful action around issues of environmentally sustainable and economic empowerment.Read More
Helen Russell, Co-founder and CEO of Equator Coffees and Tea, maintains her firm’s brand promise by telling stories. “It’s not about what we do, but how we do it.” She and her team talk about how they support coffee growers and create stakeholder value in the coffee supply chain, while helping to protect endangered species as well as respecting people, the process and preserving the environment. When she and Brooke McDonnell started the company in 1995 in a Corte Madera garage, they defined Equator as a boutique “concierge” roaster determined to “wow” wholesale customers with outstanding coffee and service.
Determining how to be a good partner is a motivating force for Equator and an essential part of its brand, forming the base for a more constructive, realistic, and sustainable way of doing commerce. From the beginning Equator has used a red Bengal Tiger image as part of its logo and branding to start a dialogue about the tiger conservation program and to symbolize the tiger’s grace and strength it hopes to embody as a company. Russell’s sincerity and truthfulness is key to Equator’s credibility.
“Brand promise is everything, including holding on to core values. What we don’t do is ever cut health insurance for our 106 employees, no matter what it costs.”
The company was founded on the principles of preserving the environment and fostering greater social justice. “Why we do this is our passion, we embody our brand through our stories, and consumer loyalty – including a growing number of millennials attracted to us because of our purpose-driven values.” There are some 300 coffee roasters on the west coast. Success in differentiating our business is due to transparency, satisfying customer needs and by providing the backstory of what goes on behind the scenes to help coffee growers and environmental preservation. Russell said, “Building consumer loyalty, and informing people about how to discern a company’s true and earnest efforts from a mere marketing scheme, are as important to our company as ever!”
Equator’s commitment to a sustainable, transparent approach is at the heart of the company’s fair trade model. “We don’t expect blind trust from our customers. Our coffee cooperative publishes all pertinent documents associated with every coffee transaction. Customers can trace our beans from farmer to roaster, at www.fairtradeproof.org.” Today, the company operates five cafés in the Bay Area and markets its products through over 150 wholesalers. In 2011 the company became the first coffee roaster in the nation to become a certified B Corporation. In 2016, the U.S. Small Business Administration honored Equator by naming it the “National Small Business of the Year.”