From the beginning, the fact that we are a couple has never been a part of Equator’s story. We’ve been together for 26 years and led Equator for 21 of those, but our mission as a coffee company is primarily customer-focused: to serve people who love coffee and to respect the people who grow it. We succeeded in building a wholesale business from the ground up because our business is about the customer and because we’ve always led with product, not our personal lives.
But in the past two decades we’ve seen some changes. Since we began opening retail cafés a few years ago, we’ve begun baring our soul a little more because that’s the nature of retail — to be seen out in the open. To operate your own café is to be more deeply in touch with the public drinking your coffee, and with consumers who are curious about you.
We never expected to catch the spotlight like this, but suddenly, journalists and business associations began seeking us out as progressive role models, thought leaders, or activists, especially since we made headlines as the first LGBT business to win the Small Business of the Year in California from the Small Business Administration — and just this week we learned we became the first LGBT-owned business to be named the U.S. Small Business of the Year. We’re asked to speak on panels, and to write op-eds like this one. But why now? We’ve been doing this for 20 years, and we’ve been gay our whole lives.