Opinion: I’m an Entrepreneur. I’m a Lesbian. And ‘I’m With Her’

I’m an entrepreneur. I’m a woman. I’m a lesbian. I’m an American business success story. And Hillary Clinton believes I should continue succeeding not in spite of my diversity and experience, but because of it. That’s why I’m with her.

National Small Business Week 2016
(L-R) Equator Coffee VP Maureen McHugh, Equator Coffee Co-Founder Brooke McDonnell and Equator Coffee Co-Founder & CEO Helen Russell speak after being honored at National Small Business Week 2016. J. Countess / Getty Images for SBA

I was in the room when the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce made their first ever endorsement for Hillary Clinton. That day I was surrounded by nearly 1,000 of the world’s most successful and inspiring LGBT business owners, and our collective cheering echoed the reasoning behind their decision. There is simply too much at stake for our communities—both as small business owners and LGBT citizens—who have seen too much positive growth over the last eight years.

RELATED: Gay & Lesbian Business Leaders Endorse Hillary Clinton

Hillary's success has also been decades in the making, just like our 21 year ‘overnight success' at Equator Coffees & Teas. My Partner and Co-founder at Equator, Brooke McDonnell, and I made headlines as the first LGBT business to win the title of National Small Business of the Year from the US Small Business Administration. Our success grew from our relationship with the Golden Gate Business Association, along with all of the LGBT Chambers of Commerce in California who supported us during this process and from the NGLCC at the national level. They know the true value in lifting people up, championing diversity, and fighting for everyone’s chance to get ahead— and so does Hillary Clinton.

Being a women-led business in specialty coffee is unusual despite it being a progressive industry. Right now women and LGBT business owners like us are finding and strengthening our voices in our respective industries. Our leadership at Equator has a uniquely deep bench of three women who happen to be gay, and we’ve grown our business from scratch "starting in a garage" into an industry leader quality-driven enterprise with a focus on impact and conscience. Just as our success at Equator has made us a role model to women and LGBT business owners, Secretary Clinton is a role model for me because she also leads with a focus on lifting all boats with her high impact, experience, and conscience.

Hillary, in her statement following the NGLCC endorsement, reminded us that she wants to be the "Small Business President" and make things easier for small businesses every step of the way. She said that “In America, if you can dream it, you should be able to build it.” Businesses like ours continue to prove over and over again: there’s no such thing as a glass ceiling to high or too hard for an LGBT enterprise or woman entrepreneur to shatter. And leaders like Hillary Clinton are proving the same thing for the Presidency.

Just like me, and the many LGBT and women business successes I meet each and every week, Hillary Clinton will continue to succeed not in spite of her womanhood or experience, but because of them. Hillary knows that every single vote counts and she is working day and night to earn those votes, just like an entrepreneur works every day to earn and keep its customers!

Hillary believes that everyone deserves an equal seat at the table and all the respect and dignity afforded to every citizen. I’m proud to join the #LGBTbiz4Hillary movement and support the only candidate in this race who believes the American Dream should be available to every American no matter where you come from, who you worship, what you look like, or who you love.

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