Helen Russell – Co-founder & CEO of Equator Coffee

Episode 58

Helen Russell, CEO and co-founder of Equator Coffee, joins me on today's episode of Unstoppable. Equator Coffee is a specialty coffee roaster in Marin County. Over the past 25 years, the business has grown from a small roaster and wholesome supplier into a national brand known for its amazing coffee and its impactful action around social issues. Helen has led Equator to become an award-winning business. For the last 15 years, Equator has been on the San Francisco Business Times list of the *Top 100 Women-Owned Businesses*. In 2016, Equator became the first LGBT-certified business to win the *Small Business Award* of the year. On this show, Helen talks about how she and her co-founder Brooke have built Equator Coffee over the last 25 years. She talks about how having retail locations has influenced their wholesale business, the changes that Equator has made during COVID-19 pandemic, how Equator is thinking of creative ways to do business during this time, and more.

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Kara Goldin: Hi everybody. It’s Kara Goldin with Unstoppable. We’re here today with our next guest, so, so excited, Helen Russell from Equator Coffee. How are you?

Helen Russel: Good, Kara. Really good to see you.

Kara Goldin: Good, good. Helen is the co-founder and CEO of Equator Coffee, which is a specialty roaster. You’re based in Marin, but I just don’t even view you as this tiny little Marin thing. You guys are giant, and the red bags. I mean, you know I live for going and getting my amazing, amazing coffee from Equator. I just love you guys so much, so I’m happy to see you guys have branched out a lot more. Just a little bit more about Equator and Helen. Under her leadership for the last 25 years, Equator, I can’t believe you guys are like, that’s wild. So wild.

Helen Russel: Well, yes.

Kara Goldin: Equator has grown from a small roaster and wholesome supplier into a national brand known for its value-driven approach, award-winning coffee, and impactful action around issues of environmental sustainability, female empowerment, and economic empowerment as well. Helen’s led Equator to become California’s first certified B Corp coffee roaster, and the company has won three Good Food awards. Just a little bit about Helen too. For the last 15 years, and Equator, I should say, Equator has remained on the San Francisco Business Times list of the Top 100 Women-Owned Businesses. I’m right there with you. In 2016, Equator became the first LGBT certified business to win the SBA, Small Business Award of the year, yay, yay, yay, in California. Very exciting. You now have eight Bay Area locations, is that right?

Helen Russel: Yeah. We have eight Bay Area locations, currently six reopened since COVID. Actually the SBA was a national. We won Small Business of the Year on a national level. We actually four years ago-

Kara Goldin: That’s amazing.

Helen Russel: … went to Washington DC. We were one of the finalists. When we walked up to the stage, Mark Cuban picked up Brooke and carried her around the stage. To be an LGBT certified company and to win that, it was just such an honor. It was pretty amazing. Of course, it was Obama administration so that made it even more exciting.

Kara Goldin: Yeah. That’s amazing though. I remember when that happened. I think I saw you shortly after that and I was like… That was so, so great. Take me back a few years. So many things I want to ask you, but first of all, why coffee?

Helen Russel: In 1995, I had met Brooke in probably 1989, and we were in our early 30s. I think when you’re in your early 30s, you’re trying to figure out, hey, should I continue to sell voice and data networks in Boston, which is so boring. You can’t taste it. You can’t smell it. There’s no story. I mean, it was pretty boring stuff but it gave me the sales acumen that really served me pretty well. Brooke and I went up to the Northwest and we were buying real estate and really saw the whole specialty coffee thing happening. Brooke had traveled around the world as a child, an amazing palette. I said, hey, you love coffee. I love business. Let’s put together a business plan and open up a coffee roastery. That’s what you do when you’re 31 and 33. Sure, coffee. That’s what we did. At that time, Kara, unbelievably, there were only five women in the United States roasting coffee.

Kara Goldin: Wow.

Helen Russel: In 1995, and there were only 30 coffee roasters on the West coast. Now we have over 300. Lots has changed since we started roasting in that little garage in Corte Madera Paradise Drive to where we are today. Still roasting, still made in Marin, still in San Rafael. Now we’re actually an omnichannel business with stores and wholesale and digital and CPG, but a lot has changed in the last 16 to 18 weeks that has really refocused the company. Luckily for us, because we’ve been in business for 25 years, we will come out of this in terms of post COVID and when there’s a vaccine and be a company that’s standing. As you know, unfortunately, there will be a lot of coffee companies that won’t be able to make it. We’re retapering everything on a daily basis. Lots has changed. It’s been a lot of great wins and a lot of things going on that are positive. We’re happy to have six of the stores reopened.

Kara Goldin: Do you think because you were a brand going into this, I always look at people who are just trying to build versus you’re an established brand, I mean, what would you say if this would have happened when you were first starting? I mean, it’s a little different, but I think it’s also, I don’t know, maybe you get a little more comfortable too when you have a brand but that doesn’t mean that you survive either. I mean, you guys are doing awesome, but I’m seeing so many brands that are out there that have been out for a while that just didn’t do. They took on too much debt or they were whatever it was. I think it’s an interesting time. I don’t know what’s better if you’re just building and you can slow down the build a little bit versus being like your gas is already on the pedal and you can’t let it up too much or then it really looks like there’s a problem.

Helen Russel: Well, it’s all about cash at this point, right? Being 25 years old, we have a pretty strong balance sheet. A lot of small companies don’t have the balance sheet that we have to weather this thing. Right? Fortunate enough that we just had closed on a strategic relationship so I have some money on the balance sheet. We already had money on the balance sheet and we were able to pivot on that. There’s so many small businesses that are in growth mode that don’t have that kind of cash available to them, but we still had to do all the things that you need to do when something like this happens when stores are closed. I mean, imagine we’ve got eight retail stores coming away. We’re shipping a thousand pounds to Google every week and LinkedIn and Twitter and Slack.

Next thing you know, everybody’s working from home, the stores are closed and now you’re looking to digital. People are now ordering coffee at home. Even though it’s 2020, when we look at where we are right this moment, it’s 2005, right? 2005 again. I’m glad we’re in a position that we are in, because we have very good financial margin, really good people around the brand. We have pivoted through 9/11 and the previous recession so we know how to do these things. We have that wisdom now as being in this business for 25 years, but there’s so many companies that don’t have more than three months or one month or two months of cash on the balance sheet. We were very, very fortunate that we were able to pivot, to take a step back, to have the leadership meetings on a daily basis in terms of how do we do this thing? How do we close? How do we take care of our employees? You know that we’re a B Corp so it’s really important for us to be able to take care of all the people that work for us, to really take care of our supply chain.

We have a lot of opportunity as a company that is coming out of this thing to really sort of the lessons that we’re learning and learned because as you know, this is one foot in front of the other. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I look at the news, I look at Twitter, and we don’t know. I think we live in a great state of California that we had a governor that has led in terms of flattening the curve. We’ve been very, very fortunate. What is my advice? I mean, my advice is that you surround yourself with people that can support you, that give you good advice. I mean, we all went through applying for the PPP, right, which was payroll protection program. I was up every night for three weeks thinking we got to get this. Even though we’ve got money in the balance sheet, we don’t know what the future holds and [inaudible 00:08:54] is home. We’ve got to take care of people. It’s been a lot of confusion. I’m sure for all your listeners out there.

I mean, it’s ricocheting from optimism to oh my goodness, what’s happening here? What’s he going to say next? What about the federal leadership? I mean, there’s so many things. Our employees are looking to us as leaders that they trust. When they show up at the roastery, we are six feet apart. We’re taking people’s temperatures, we’re doing all the right measures and our customers. The companies that will come out of this in terms of specialty coffee and retail stores, customers go as you do, you come to Equator. If you come because you trust we’re doing everything correctly, you trust the brand. [inaudible 00:09:43] the most important thing is how can you make pivots that show your consumer to trust you now even more so as people start to come out.

Kara Goldin: Well, you also, the way that you’re set up, it seems like you have an indoor outdoor ability in most of your spaces, is that right?

Helen Russel: Yeah. You know what? That was a real strategy because I am a huge community builder. Right? I love people. This is what’s been so hard for me. When I get out of the store, I’m hugging people. We create spaces where I always call it the spread where people can be out front or they can be in the back. People are coming in and they have places that they can be with their families and their friends and have meetings. Not knowing this when we did that how important it is to have that outdoor space in the front, which is now allowing our customers to be able to come up to us and have plenty of room to social distance, plenty of places to park. We’ve got little tigers out on the ground, six feet apart. We were testing a mobile app prior to this happening. Luckily at one of our stores so we’re able to pivot very quickly into getting all of our products onto this app for cashless.

If you had said to me in February, Kara, oh, you’re selling toilet paper, sanitizer, milk, eggs, yeast, flour. These are all the things that we have done to add provisions so our customers that may not want to go to grocery store can pick up flour, can pick up eggs, can pick up a case of gloves. Anything to add to the average transaction to make that a viable space so we can pay our people to be there. Every time I go into the store and I walk in, everybody that works for us thanks us for bringing them back on in a safe way and giving them an opportunity to work. Other coffee companies haven’t opened yet.

Kara Goldin: Yeah, no, I think it’s interesting. I think it’s really what you’re speaking to too is that they’re expecting you to lead in the right way. Right? I stopped by your store in Sausalito and had a really nice conversation with the person that was working there that day. You guys actually had one of my other favorite restaurants, Rustic Bakery. You had some bread from there and the person working for you guys gave me a loaf of bread and was so nice about it. It was awesome. I feel like you can just tell, there’s an appreciation there. You’ve put some thinking behind not only safety, but also working with other merchants who are local and really trying to support them too, which I think is such a huge piece of that too. It’s not just a piece for customers, but it’s also your employees think about that stuff too. They see it, right? I think it really speaks to your leadership overall.

Helen Russel: Absolutely. I mean, in our mission, the way we think about it is our stores. I mean, we champion human connection and kindness through the portal of coffee. That portal was the doorway, right? Come and go with a threshold or traveling to Panama and going through the farmers gate. Now, that mission hasn’t changed, but it’s more of the approach when you’re coming in. You’re coming into our portal of kindness and connection and trust now than we are doing things properly. You know that we have a lot of cyclists, right? They come and visit with us. I’m a cyclist myself. The whole thing about cycling is about community. When you see one person out cycling now and two, one of the things is they’re coming to our stores and it’s very hard to remind them to stay six feet apart. Because people, we want to be together as humans, that’s where we want to be.

I was with a gentleman the other day who you referred me to, Eric Toda. We met at [Proof 00:14:13] Lab. I walked through Proof Lab and I walked out to the back. The guys were working on some surfboards. I said hello to them. I walked over to the nursery. The guys were putting a bunch of plants that were coming in for pickup. Eric said to me, “You know everybody here.” I said, “Yeah, this is my community.” Then I said, “How do I take this community that I have built by hugging people and talking to people and now we have to put it online? How do I do that? How do I take all the goodwill and putting stickers on children’s helmets and giving you a loaf of bread and saying hello to somebody, how do I do that online now?”

He says, “Kara has done a great job with that.” You have, you know? Because now we have to move that physical community to an online community. Right? That is part of the challenge of every business, including a coffee business that is a place where people gather traditionally. Restaurants, how do we take that community and move it online as we’re all sitting here getting through the doordash and other places, right? That’ll be a challenge not only for Equator but also for a lot of retailers. It’s not going to be easy because we have the resources to figure it out. A lot of companies don’t have those resources. It’ll be a challenge for us, but we’ll do it, but it won’t be the same. I’m really looking forward to this vaccine.

Kara Goldin: No, I agree. I think we need to get there, but I think in the meantime… I mean, you talked a little bit about the community. I think I have told so many people including Eric about something that I really admire about your brand. I love the coffee. Like I always talk about, in order to have a brand, you actually have to have a great product. Like you can’t hide, you can flash it out there for a while and get a little bit of trial but I think that for me, a brand that has been around for a while also speaks to the product. You can’t market your way out of that. I also feel like you guys have done such an amazing job with community. I think that the biggest thoughts and advice that I can give you about this channel, it’s just there’s limitations in every single channel.

I mean, you have similar channels. You have the retail. You have your own storefront, which is retail too but different than you selling to a Mollie Stone’s or Kroger or whatever. Then you’ve got the direct to consumer online. Then you’ve got the food service, which is the Googles and selling into those micro kitchens. Very similar to us. It’s really tough to have community and anything but the high touch experience that you’re giving in your own stores. On the other hand, you don’t have to carry the coffee home if you’re ordering it online or if you’re living somewhere outside of here. That’s another reason why I believe retail won’t go away. Right? People are still going to be coming in because you’re going to want that experience. I mean, it’s the same reason when, you know, I go up to Portland and I go to the Nike store up in Portland. It’s like, I want to be able to experience that. Can I buy Nike’s from Amazon or from the Nike website? Sure, but for some reason I want that feeling. I think I’m going to get something different.

I think in addition to that, you have created a community that is rooting for you, and is incredibly loyal. That’s something that I think not a lot of retailers have. I mean, people turn away from that in the building or they don’t want to have all of the biking stuff that you have. Somebody actually reached out to me the other day and a customer of ours and a friend of mine said, “Do you have any biking things? Like, do you have shorts? Do you have that kind of stuff?” I just, again, not that I don’t think that that is like the right thing to do, but I just said like, “We sell some stuff in our store,” but it’s not really who… Like, we haven’t created that as part of our culture like you guys have. When you go to those, you have, and that’s great. You put stakes in the ground around that and that’s incredible.

I think that it’ll be interesting as you launch further online, I don’t think that’s going to, you know, you can have pictures of people on bikes, et cetera, but I think that will be the specialness of people coming and visiting you when they come to a store that you have.

Helen Russel: One of the things that you will find interesting I think that what we’ve done and this idea came to me because I think we’re all looking for white space, right? I’m reading everything. It’s like, I’m on my bike, I’m going over the Golden Gate Bridge and it’s the first time I go over the Golden Gate Bridge and there’s not a lot of [inaudible 00:19:53] coming towards you, right? I haven’t been on bike in 10 years to take photos. I get to the other side and I’m thinking, who are my customers? How can we borrow from some of the brands that were currently are in our [pool 00:20:06]? I immediately thought of chef Dominique Crenn, San Francisco, three Michelin star chef, amazing. Chef Tyler Florence, launching a new brand called Wolf it Down. Of course, chef Thomas Keller, The French Laundry that we’d been with for 20 years.

I get back home over the bridge and I called Dominique Crenn and I said, “Hey, how about we have your Atelier Crenn blend? Why don’t we put it online? Why don’t I ship it to you? You have over 400,000 Instagram followers. You take a photo of yourself with your coffee and then we will donate a dollar for every bag sold of the 12 ounce bag and $2 for every two pound bag sold.” She said, “I’m in.” I worked with her team, sent her the coffee. You can get it online. Had product pages set up with her. We sold 800 bags in two weeks. I sent her a check today for $1,600 for the Crenn fund.

Kara Goldin: That’s amazing.

Helen Russel: For hospitality. Did the same thing with Tyler Florence, his Wolf it Down blend. He come to the roastery right before all this happened. We put together his blend. He was super excited about it. He’s on Instagram every day with new recipes and things and he’s a big espresso lover. He put it online and we just sent him a check. Look at who your current customers are, see them as their own, they have their own communities. Right? How do you get into that community?

Kara Goldin: Absolutely.

Helen Russel: Chef Keller will be next week. We will launch his TK espresso, his Bouchon blend and I think the Ad Hoc blend. That’ll go to his fund. People want to do something. People have communities. Tyler, chef Crenn, and our cycling community, how do we tap into those folks to give us that headwind that we can draft behind them as they take our product with them? That has been really working well on the digital side, so well, we’re looking into bagging equipment now. Because we’re selling so many bags of coffee, which we would just sell normally to grocery stores, folks online, but now we’re selling 800 bags.

Kara Goldin: That’s what I buy.

Helen Russel: Yes.

Kara Goldin: Now that more people are home around my house too, it seems like having four teenagers and a little older than teenagers, they’re around here and they want their espresso. I think it’s definitely your time.

Helen Russel: I’m drinking more coffee at home than I’ve ever, I mean, normally I got to get out of the house and I’ll drink coffee at the stores and I drink a ton of coffee. I just had a call with the folks in Australia that own Rebel. We’re going to start selling Rebel espresso machines on our site because we have to take advantage of this home market now. All day long, I’m sitting here thinking about ways to grow the business now on the digital side because we only have six stores open and the wholesale is pretty much gone down to zero because nobody… You know, Jack Dorsey says you can work from home forever. Now the coffee I was sending to Twitter now I have to send it to that individual at home. Contacted all those folks and we’ve been doing Instagram videos of showing them how to make coffee at home. This is a time to be creative.

Kara Goldin: Did you actually reach out to some of those people that work at these companies then?

Helen Russel: 100%, no, Okta. Okta, we reached out to Twitch through Guckenheimer. We did a code off for the thousand folks at Twitch that are now working at home through Guckenheimer. Then we set up a Zoom, Instagram Live TV to show them how to steam milk, how to pull a shot. They do all that. Yeah. Just to keep them engaged at home.

Kara Goldin: How did that work like that offer?

Helen Russel: That worked well. I think that those folks get so many offers, right? It’s like from Verizon and from Apple and from all these folks. We have to keep really reminding them that they can order our coffee at a discount. Then we have video set up for you. I know [Deborah 00:24:51] just did another one this morning I think with Okta. We’re trying to look at the return on her time with those folks. But when we get the Breville on there, we’re going to be doing something with Tyler Florence for sure with the Wolf it Down blend and his VR team. These are things I never would have thought of before, but I’m learning how to bring that community onto the digital and looking at all the folks that really do that well. When I started Equator, all I ever thought about was there’s three ways to grow a business.

You’re always adding new customers, selling them more things. Now I’m selling them eggs and milk and selling them more things more often. Thankfully you and I are in a business that coffee and water, we need it every day. So glad that we’re in the business that we’re in and we’re not selling, I don’t know, tables and chairs, right? You’ve got to look at your brand. You’ve got to look at your product. You have to now reach different audiences in a different way and look at the folks that are doing it. You’re one of them, the folks that I’ve listened to on your podcast are thinking out of the box. The companies that do that will be the ones that will survive this.

Kara Goldin: West coast stores, do you have plans to go outside of Northern California?

Helen Russel: Well, we have been outside of Northern California. Two and a half years ago we set up a co-roasting facility out in New York. We’re out there part time, Brooke and I. Brooke is from Manhattan. I know you go to New York a lot as well. [inaudible 00:26:26] with Bouchon Bakery for the last 15 years and per se. We had a team out there. Unfortunately, we had to lay off the entire team and we no longer are roasting in New York. We had just started roasting in L.A. so we got that down.

Kara Goldin: Is this before COVID or was this-

Helen Russel: [inaudible 00:26:48] COVID. [inaudible 00:26:50] and closed down New York and stopped roasting in L.A. and in New York because New York was completely shut down obviously, right? Fortunately, we had to lay off those individuals out of the gate and then Southern California, we were about to open a store in Culver City. We had two stores going in on two tech company campuses. We’re scheduled this year to open three to five stores, all that was put on hold. We were really making our move in New York and Southern California so we will have to wait now to do that. We’ve kind of pulled in now and just focusing here in California and of course our digital business website. We’re selling, sending coffee all over the country. We always have.

In terms of having a presence in those two markets, which is it’s funny as founders, you choose areas that you want to be in. We love New York. We love going to New York and we’re all from East coast and we love L.A. like who doesn’t want to get out of L.A. and poke around and get out of Santa Monica. Let’s open a couple of stores down here. It was a great opportunity with wholesale. We already sold to Suzanne going through. We were already doing that and about to make a big splash. You would have been learning more about our opening in Culver City, but now everything has been pushed to the first quarter of 2021. The reforecasting that we just completed, we have to reforecast again. It’s very, very fluid.

Kara Goldin: Well, it’s great that you could actually adjust though in that way. I mean, you were just about to do it in L.A. I mean, it’s great that you were able to hold off for a few months and be able to shift that a bit.

Helen Russel: Yep, 100%. We’ll get back down there. I mean, of course the location is in ID station. We had above us all these HBOs moving from New York and then we had a new residential apartment tower, and then we had a hotel. All that construction was put on hold so that moved it all out. We’ve got a paramount of grocery down there now. Retail drives wholesale. Having those stores for us and we just went into retail. It’s funny and I don’t know if you know this but here we are, we’ve been around for 25 years. A lot of folks think we’ve been around for only seven or eight years because that’s when the stores-

Kara Goldin: Came, yeah.

Helen Russel: When we did that store at the surf shop in Tam Junction in Mill Valley, and I spent a year and a half down there telling our story. It became the polo lounge in [bable 00:29:29] court, right? Just so many people came in there from [Bistow 00:29:34], from [Dic Coslow 00:29:34], how we get into Twitter. We got into all of LinkedIn because the head of global workforce was on his way to New York beach with his family. Having that, being able to walk into that experience really helped us continue to really grow wholesale, which is where we lived underneath the radar. I just love the retail stores. They’re all different. They’re like little snowflakes. Whether you’re three or 83, it’s like a Katy Perry concert. You feel good in there? You know?

Kara Goldin: No, I think it’s great. Do you still get behind the counter?

Helen Russel: I do get behind the counter. Yeah, I do. I do more cleaning though. That drives my team crazy when I go grab the broom or grab the towel, because I’ll get the towel and I’ll start cleaning. People say, do you work here? Then that’s how the conversation starts, right?

Kara Goldin: During this time, I mean, we’ve been an essential product. I’ve been in stores and we made a decision. We have a pretty significant field marketing team that goes out and samples and does events and then also our food service. We have food service team that goes into these corporate customers. Rather than laying them off, we actually said, listen, we want our sales team to go into less stores, more local so that they’re coming in contact with less people. We reallocated those people to go and do those jobs going into stores. In addition, in Marin County, I said to Ben who runs our area in Marin County, I said, “Give me a few stores to go to.” He said, “You’re not going to stores.” I’m like, “No, no, no, I’m doing it.” Because I’m also doing it because I want to make sure that it’s safe for my employees to be going in.

Things like going in earlier in the morning, before the store is even open, at night. Again, very much like you, I think when you used to do this job… I was delivering cases. I still know how to go into a back room at Target and walk in and grab cases. I can still bottle our product. I’ve talked a lot about this too. We don’t actually fill our bottles. There are no people in the room when we’re filling. People have said to me, “How do you know that?” I’m like, “because I was there.” I mean, I can still do that. I have people that actually do these jobs now that I think are better than how I could do them, but it doesn’t mean that I can’t do them as a founder and CEO. I think that is so critical to be able to be scrappy, understand what these jobs are. I can still go into our analytics on Facebook and look at SEO. I knew some of that stuff early on because I had worked in the tech industry. I think I’m always wanting to learn which I think is something I see in you too.

Helen Russel: You send to your staff and to your customers is you just, you could talk to them all day long but when they see you commit, if I get downtown Mill Valley, there’s a line out the door I walk in there. I put that towel on my shoulder. I go buss tables. I do a bunch of dishes. I start making coffee. I just do the sweep. People just look and they’re just amazed. I got my way through college by bartending so I know my way around a café back online in 20 minutes, you know. It’s a great way for the team to just see a CEO and a founder roll up their sleeves. It sends a big message. Coming in and checking on them and making sure that they feel safe and they’ve got their mask on and I’ve got my mask on. We’ve got our gloves on, it really matters to them now more than ever when they see us. I love it here.

I’m not surprised that you’re doing it, not surprised that I’m doing it. I’m sure there’s a lot of CEOs and founders that are doing the exact same thing. I know Paul Polenta has been visiting all the stores [inaudible 00:33:59] remedy, checking on things. I will always be that person behind the bar. I mean, that’s where I’m comfortable and I’m comfortable cleaning up tables. I call myself the undercover boss, but everybody knows who I am.

Kara Goldin: That’s awesome. I love that so much. I ask two other questions of all my guests. Number one, what’s your favorite Hint flavor?

Helen Russel: Oh, it just happens to be right here, it’s my lemon essence.

Kara Goldin: Oh, I love the lemon. It’s so tasty.

Helen Russel: I love it. It’s so soft. Got a huge ride on Saturday and I came home and I was in the garage and there’s a fridge back there. I had like two bottles out of the gate. Thank you.

Kara Goldin: Oh, that’s awesome. Yeah, no, absolutely. I love it. The last one, what makes you unstoppable? I mean, you’ve answered a lot of this, but I think it’s-

Helen Russel: I mean, I do not like the word no, just don’t like it, never liked it. I’m like, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Right before all this happened, we’re about to close on a deal and I got a call. They were like, you know, they’re not going to do this, but if you want to talk to the CEO. My board was like, oh wow, I can’t believe that’s happening. I didn’t even like, I’m going to talk to the CEO of this company and I’m going to make it happen. I get on the phone, talked to him and he said, “Look, I’ll sleep on it but probably my answer is going to be the same in the morning.” He called me back in the morning and said, “You know what? I heard what you said and we’re going to go ahead with the deal.” I do not do no at all. Yes, it’s my go-to. People ask me when I go into the stores, “Can I do a pop up event here? I’m going to India and I’m bringing back shoes.” I say, yes. You know, I’m interested in welding.

Can I do some [spoons 00:35:49] here for the kids for [inaudible 00:35:50]? Yes. I mean, yes, yes, yes. Do not do no. You cannot be a CEO and you cannot be a founder of a company and like that word no. Look, sometimes you’re going to hear the word no. But I feel like if I run down that aisle and I knocked on that door and I hope we did, and I still get a no, that means that it wasn’t meant to be. You’ll only hear yes from me because it’s yes, yes, yes.

Kara Goldin: I love it very, very much. How do people, obviously equatorcoffees.com is the website. How do people find Helen Russell?

Helen Russel: That’s the thing I’m working on. [inaudible 00:36:29] Equator Helen, you can reach me [email protected]. They’ll send it over to me or [email protected]. Send me a note. I’m very good at following up and getting a hold of people and calling people and mentoring people and chatting with people.

Kara Goldin: I love that. Yeah, no, you are. You’re so great at that. I just think you’re just the epitome of somebody that has really given back and wants to learn and just a great CEO.

Helen Russel: You always want to learn. What was the truth for you in the early morning of your life is very different in the late afternoon. You’ve got to be open and you’ve got to be curious and you got to keep going.

Kara Goldin: I love it. I love it. Well, thank you so much, Helen. Good to see you. We’ll definitely see you at the local Equator Coffee very, very soon, I’m sure.

Helen Russel: Thank you so much.

Kara Goldin: Thank you.