Helen Russell knows how to channel energy for good. As a founder of Equator Coffees, she sells coffee that is roasted better, brewed better, and sourced in a way that makes lives better. Today, Equator Coffees is a high-impact coffee company focused on quality, sustainability and social responsibility. And if you ask us, it tastes delicious.
To mark Women’s History Month, we talked to women who inspired us with their impact, including Helen. Below she shares more about her everyday life — including how her Bluejay Bike fits into it.
What gets you out of bed each morning?
Equator Coffees gets me out of bed in the morning along with the promise of making a positive impression and impact with everyone I touch that day. I have a saying, “What can I do today to champion human connection and kindness at the portal of coffee, whether it be at the door of one of our stores or at the Farmers gate?”
What are you most proud of?
Bootstrapping a business from scratch and making a difference in the lives of our farm partners by paying well above a fair and equitable price for coffee. We were the first Coffee Roaster in Northern California to become FairTrade Certified.
The second thing I am most proud of is building into our profit and loss statement from day one (28 years ago now) that we would pay 100% of health care for all full-time employees.
The third thing is buying an unplanted coffee farm in Panama and building worker housing for the folks that we found living on the land. We wanted to plant and grow the best coffee in the world and we did just that by winning the coveted Best of Panama after eight years of nurturing our trees.
What’s the one thing you cannot live without?
The unconditional love of my supportive partner, Brooke. We have been by each other's side over the last 28 years of founding Equator.
Who are women that inspire you?
Serena Williams is at the top of my list, as one of the greatest athletes of all time. She has inspired so many young girls of color to take up tennis, a real trailblazer on and off the court. Off the court she uses her platform to invest in Women and Minority owned businesses.
Author Maya Angelou also inspires me. Her incredible spirit as an activist who overcame abuse as a child to go on and inspire women across the globe with her writings and profound teachings.
Body Shop founder Anita Roddick is another. I remember reading about the Body Shop and Anita when she said “businesses can be a force for good in the world.” That is why Equator is now a B Corp, one of the first in California. Anita empowered women and girls with the simple belief that everyone is beautiful. We could use more of that sentiment today with the body shaming young girls and women endure.
What does a day in your life look like?
I get up at around 7 am, run down the stairs to make coffee — my favorite thing to do in the morning. I then start looking at email, just in case I missed something overnight that I need to respond to. I then head out the door with our dog Coco for a 2 mile walk and start planning my day in my head. I try to visit one of our stores each day to say hello to our customers and staff. I meditate when I return home late in the afternoon, spend time telling my partner Brooke about my day, have dinner, and then have an evening dog walk and another peak at email before I start reading one of the books I have queued up on my iPad. My latest book is Surrender by Bono.
What do you love about your Bluejay Bike?
I can leave my car at home, I don’t need to wear a bike kit, and feel like a kid when I come spinning into our store’s patio all smiles. Our customers love seeing me on my Bluejay.
How does your Bluejay make you feel?
Cool, practical, fit and fun.
What’s in your bike’s basket?
I carry my backpack, Jambars, and water bottle. I personally go long distances on my Bluejay and pedal hard, so I need to replenish.
What’s the best song to bike to?
The song that gets me pedaling faster is Alicia Keys, Girl on Fire.
What’s your favorite place to ride your Bluejay?
It is absolutely over the iconic Golden Gate Bridge to visit one of our stores at the top, the Roundhouse Cafe. With my Bluejay I don’t have to worry about parking. Zipping along with the wind in my hair, I then pop down to Fort Mason and visit our store along the Marina. When I leave the Marina and look up at the Golden Gate Bridge I feel like I can fly. It is so much fun on this Bike. I am a cyclist, so I like the speed and good design. My Bluejay makes my heart sing.