Founder & CEO
Erika Block founded and ran an entrepreneurial arts organization for 12 years, overseeing programming, board development, marketing and financial management. She managed cross-sector non-profit, educational and commercial partnerships in the US, Great Britain and South Africa. Erika also raised $2 million and led the renovation of a vacant building in Detroit into a theater, gallery and bar, working with vendors to source local food for events. Throughout her career, Erika has created collaborative environments that facilitate learning and action.
She is a 2011 PopTech Social Innovation Fellow. Other awards include Crain’s Detroit Business 40 Under 40 and the GLEQ Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award. Erika has a BGS from University of Michigan, an MFA from Columbia University, and did graduate work in Interactive Technology at New York University. She comes from a family of fruit peddlers, meat processors, restaurant owners and wholesalers.
Check out Erika’s PopTech talk
Chief Operating Officer
We imagine that Julie Ankenbrandt is one of few COOs who milks her own cows, grows her own food, and has experience building successful Internet companies. Before settling into her own farmstead, Julie helped to build and launch PayPal, the online payment service, where she served as vice president of product, operations & customer service, and public relations & communications from the company’s startup through its sale to eBay. Prior to joining PayPal Julie worked in technology-focused investment banking with DMG Technology Group, an arm of Deutsche Bank.
Today Julie lives in Colorado with her two boys, four Jersey cows, and fifty chickens. “As a kid there was something magical in eating straight from the garden,” Julie says. “I love providing that chemical-free experience for my own kids, and working with Local Orbit, which is making it easier to get food from farm to everyone’s table.”
Chief Technology Officer
Julie Mills brings more than three decades of computer science and technology experience to the Local Orbit Team, and was most recently the Director of IT Governance, Risk, and Compliance for AOL. Previously, she held a number of technology positions within AOL including Interim Head of IT Security and Director of the Access business unit investment portfolio. She launched AOL ventures in Mexico, Argentina, Spain and China. Julie has also held positions in engineering and management at the CIA, Kmart, Morgan Interactive and Catapult Entertainment.
Julie earned Bachelor of Science degrees with honors in computer science and mathematics from the University of Detroit and an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Julie is a CISSP, a PMP, and an ITIL Expert and holds three US Patents for innovations in online communication. She is well known for her ability to get things done.
Mike Thorn has been fostering business change and efficiency through software development for more than 10 years. He has led the development of projects including an online Laboratory Information Management system used by The Dow Chemical Company; a comprehensive business to business e-Marketplace solution used by Rohm & Haas; a custom built content management system used by the United States Council for Automotive Research; a HIPPA compliant Electronic Medical Records system; and a customer insights search tool for Disney. Mike also led the development of Therapy Charts, a start-up Electronic Health Records SaaS for therapists.
As lead developer for Local Orbit, Mike is excited to see his work provide a platform for farmers to grow stronger, more efficient businesses. “I’d like to bring the resources and tools that create advantages for big agriculture and huge retail chains to 10-acre farms and 10-table restaurants alike,” says Mike.
Mariah Cherem has 10 years experience in marketing, project management and social media engagement. Most recently, she served as Yelp's inaugural Community Manager in Southeastern Michigan, building on and offline community and brand awareness from the ground up, securing marketing partnerships with local businesses, and growing weekly email subscriptions. She is completing her MSI in Community Informatics from University of Michigan’s School of Information.
As community manager with Local Orbit, Mariah relishes the opportunity to support the movement back toward local food, to build community and connect dedicated farmers with the chefs, schools, and institutions who so eagerly want to source locally for health, environmental and economic reasons.
Ragan Erickson's backyard is filled with chickens and seasonal crops, which makes her a perfect Local Orbit evangelist to the local food haven of Southern California. Prior to joining the company, Ragan served as Direct Sales and Marketing Manager for the region's only sustainable winery and restaurant.
Ragan spent much of her early career working in her family's restaurant business, and she joined Local Orbit because the company intersects her passions for slow food and new media. "Working with a company that is solving social problems by simply increasing access to locally produced food is a dream come true," she said.