'Women Who Empower' summit highlights importance of compassionate leadership


Helen Russell, DMSB’88, Co-founder and CEO of Equator Coffee and Teas was the keynote speaker at the "Women Who Empower" summit. Photo by Matthew Modoono.

The inaugural “Women Who Empower” summit was held at Northeastern University on Wednesday, November 10, 2016, featuring keynote speaker Helen Russell, DMSB’88, Co-founder and CEO of Equator Coffee and Teas.

The summit focused on empowering women leaders, featuring prominent speakers from a broad range of professions discussing thought leadership, inspiration, and learning.

Russell was inspired to create a high-impact coffee company that  controlled the entire manufacturing process, from growth to development to production. Russell and her partner, Brooke McDonnell, founded the company in a California garage in 1995. Equator Coffee and Teas is now a nationally known brand, and the first roaster in California to earn Certified B Corporation status.

“There are really no mis­takes when you’re starting out because you learn some­thing from every mis­take,” said Russell. “You just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and your pas­sion will grow from there.”

This year, her company became the first LGBT-certified business to win the Small Busi­ness Administration’s Small Busi­ness of the Year Award for the state of California.

The summit was also lead by other members of the D’Amore-McKim community. Jamie Ladge, Associate Professor of Management and Organizational Development, interviewed Kristen Kish, winner of “Top Chef” season 10 and co-host of “36 Hours.” Sara Minard, Executive Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, moderated the Q&A portion of Russell’s keynote address and Kimberly Eddleston, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, led “Inspiration, Observation and Takeaways,” featuring Jessica Fracalossi, S’10, founder of The Handle Bar.

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