Marin County’s fast-growing Equator Coffees plans ready-to-drink oatmilk latte, new shops

It’s only fitting that a 24-year-old Marin County company that recently has grown to have operations on both coasts also return to the Inc. 5000 national list of fast-growth firms for a sixth time.

Equator Coffees placed at No. 4,515 on the list, based on three-year revenue growth of 65%. The company ended 2018 with $19.5 million, up 17.5% from $16.6 million in 2017. CEO and co-founder Helen Russell projects about 15% growth this year, putting it into $22 million territory.

The company employs 140, up from 125 last year, and another 15 or so additions are expected in coming months, according to Russell.

“Staffing is always a challenge because there is low unemployment in the Bay Area, particularly Marin,” she said. “We are solving for this with comprehensive training programs, competitive wages and increased benefits.”

It’s going to be a busy fall for the firm, Russell said. A ready-to-drink latte is planned to be launched with Oatly Oatmilk. A new café is set to open in Sausalito, and another one is planned for somewhere in the Bay Area in summer 2020.

Equator currently has seven shops and stores in Mill Valley, Larkspur, Oakland and San Francisco.

Business and life partners, Russell and Brooke McDonnell started Equator in 1995 in a Corte Madera garage. They have defined Equator as a boutique “concierge” roaster determined to “wow” wholesale customers with outstanding coffee and service.

To that end, the company recently launched coffee roasting operations in New York to serve East Coast customers.

Jeff Quackenbush covers wine, construction and real estate. Contact him at or 707-521-4256.

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