Press release 16-42

SBA Names California’s Equator Coffees & Teas 2016 National Small Business of the Year

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Maria Contreras-Sweet, Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration recognized and awarded this year’s National S...

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Maria Contreras-Sweet, Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration recognized and awarded this year’s National Small Business Week national award winners including the Small Business Person(s) of the Year at a ceremony and reception in Washington, D.C.

“It is my extreme pleasure and honor to announce that business partners Brooke McDonnell and Helen Russell from Equator Coffees & Teas headquartered in San Rafael, California are this year’s national Small Business Person(s) of the Year.  It all started in 1995 when they started to roast coffee in Brooke’s garage.  Equator now has 90 employees and 350 wholesale customers including the renowned French Laundry restaurant, cafes at LinkedIn, micro-kitchens at Google and three retail stores in Northern California with two more on the way,” Contreras-Sweet said. “Helen and Brooke purchased their own roasting plant using an SBA 504 loan.  They have worked diligently with their farmers for 17 years and were one of the first roasters to support the Fair Trade movement to gain better wages for growers.”

“The overall competition was extremely competitive this year.  The highlight of my day was to be able to meet and award every state and territory winner and thank them for all they do for their local economy and America’s small business community. Two out of three net new jobs in America are created by small businesses and it’s all of our small business winners today who are leading the way,”Contreras-Sweet added. 

First Runner-up

Angela O’Byrne


Perez, APC

New Orleans, Louisiana

Headquartered in New Orleans Perez, APC has provided clients with design and construction services for more than 75 years. The company specializes in housing, government, education, recreation, hospitality, and healthcare facilities.

Angela O’Byrne acquired 100 percent ownership of the firm in 2000. With a staff of more than 50, she has grown the multi-discipline organization to 15 branch locations, including those along the East, West, and Gulf Coasts, the Midwest, and Afghanistan.

Despite losing 23 of 25 contracts as a result of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, O’Byrne never lost her determination. She took a disaster recovery loan from the SBA and patiently awaited the return of paying projects that would allow the firm to thrive again. Her perseverance paid off in 2006 with a large number of new contracts.

The Perez team has won multi-million dollar federal contracts from Germany to the Caribbean to North Africa as it continues to thrive under her leadership.

O’Byrne is also a passionate advocate for women in architecture and construction, and is involved in countless professional and nonprofit organizations dedicated to their industry advancement.

Second Runner-up

Raymond Jardine Jr.

Chairman, CEO

Native Hawaiian Veterans, LLC.

Honolulu, Hawaii

Ray Jardine Jr. started Native Hawaiian Veterans (NHV) in 2005 with just three employees and first-year revenue of about $64,000.

In 11 years of operation, NHV has reached impressive heights in terms of expansion, revenues and jobs created. By 2015, the company had already expanded his lines of business to all 50 states and territories, 20 countries, more than 200 employees and over $30 million in gross revenue.

At its inception, NHV started out as an IT company but has diversified into areas such as Homeland Security, Emergency Management, Security Services, Fire and Emergency Anti-Terrorism/Force Protection and several others. Its main customer is the federal government, for which it has handled hundreds of contracts, both as an 8(a) certified subcontractor and prime contractor.

Jardine is a strong advocate of small businesses and has a proven history of volunteer efforts to advance the small business community. He also is very involved in the community at large and contributes both time and money to many organizations such as the Kina’ole Foundation, the Native Hawaiian Organizations Association, the Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce and many others.

Third Runner-up

David Dafoe

Founder and Chief Operations Officer

Flavorman and Distilled Spirts Epicenter

Louisville, Kentucky

David Dafoe struck out on his own after a successful career with a local beverage company, where he worked to develop well-known drink mixes and cocktails.  He formed Pro-Liquitech International in 1992, which later became Flavorman, an international customer beverage production company.  Dafoe started the company with one customer and no employees, but that quickly changed as the company rapidly grew.  He currently has 30 full-time and four part-time employees.

As Flavorman evolved, its impressive list of clients grew to include Chiquita Brands, Ocean Spray, the Kellogg Company, Sunsweet Growers, Brooklyn Bottling and many of the world’s top ten distilleries, among other beverage companies.  In 2012, Dafoe founded a sister company, the Distilled Spirits Epicenter. 

Dafoe has used an SBA-backed 7(a) loan and a separate 504 loan to move to its current HUBZone location near downtown Louisville.

National Small Business Week is an annual event organized by SBA to recognize the achievements of the top small businesses in the nation. Since 1963, the president of the United States has issued a proclamation calling for the celebration of National Small Business Week. This year National Small Business Week will be recognized from May 1-7 with national events planned in Washington, D.C., New York, Denver, Phoenix, Oakland and San Jose, Calif.  Events throughout the week will be live-streamed on SBA’s website at  Make sure to check in during the event for live social media engagement, using the hashtag #DreamSmallBiz. For more information on the national events please visit:


Cosponsorship Authorization #SBW2016 SBA’s participation in this cosponsored activity is not an endorsement of the views, opinions, products or services of any Cosponsor or other person or entity. All SBA/SCORE programs and services are extended to the public on a nondiscriminatory basis. Reasonable arrangements for persons with disabilities will be made if requested at least two weeks in advance.  Contact: SCORE is partially funded by SBA Cooperative Agreement No. SBAHQ-14-S-0001.

National Small Business Week 2016 sponsors include: Chase for Business, SCORE, ADP, Colonial Life, Intuit, Sam’ s Club, Square, YP, ESET, Facebook, Instagram, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, National Association of Government Guaranteed Lenders (NAGGL) and VEDC


About the U.S. Small Business Administration

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) was created in 1953 and since January 13, 2012 has served as a Cabinet-level agency of the federal government to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our nation.  The SBA helps Americans start, build and grow businesses.  Through an extensive network of field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations, the SBA delivers its services to people throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam.



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