Local Orbit Links Healthy Food and Healthy Businesses

By Chucky Blackmore on August 12th, 2016 / Comments

In the last several decades, humans have managed to distribute mass quantities of food to various parts of the world for consumption.  This quick system of distribution is convenient for both the companies manufacturing the food and the people buying and consuming it.  However, as we move into more of a consumer-driven world, people want to know where their food comes from and who is behind the production of it.  This shift in food economy has allowed for the growth of small businesses who pride themselves in local and healthy food, something that wasn’t emphasized as much in the past.    

Small businesses who ensure sustainable food options to their customers do not work alone.  Supply chain platforms exist to help businesses make the smartest decisions about producing and distributing high quality food to customers.  One such platform, Local Orbit, centered in Ann Arbor, is paving a new road for food economy.  

Currently, Local Orbit services over 90 local food businesses across North America, providing them with sales, business management, and logistics tools.  In addition, Local Orbit has nearly 1,200 buyers and suppliers with whom they do business, most of which are restaurants, schools, universities, and hospitals.  

The growing success of Local Orbit can be attributed to CEO and founder Erika Block.  Block, whose accomplishments span far and wide, felt inspired to start Local Orbit after writing a theatrical play on the history of eating.  

“[It] started as a theater project about food and emerged from interviews and conversations I had with people during my research,” said Block.  

To fully experience the food economy, Block ventured across the nation in various environments to talk with business owners, policy makers, farmers, and nutritionists about their successes and failures.  She patiently gained insights while walking through fields, warehouses, and even in the kitchens of hardworking farmers.  

Though Local Orbit doesn’t have any customers in Grand Rapids, Block said the presence of West Michigan has been extremely supportive.

“Three of our team members, including our Chief Operating Officer, Eric Meister, and our Chief Technology Officer, Andy Bass, live in Holland and Zeeland.  They split their time between Ann Arbor and the west side of the state,” she said.  “We also have a number of West Michigan investors.  It’s been a rich source of talent and capital for Local Orbit.”

As the CEO of a supply chain platform, Block’s objective is to satisfy three core responsibilities: communicating the vision for the company, building and supporting a highly capable team, and making sure adequate resources are available so every member does their job well.  She offers advice to women seeking successful roles in the business sector, sharing a story about how her mother, who was a businesswoman during the 1980s, walked through the front door of a business that prohibited women from entering.   

In response to her mother’s hard work and ambition, Block said, “The best thing any of us can do to chip away at the inequity is by walking through the front door, closing the deal, and building great businesses.”  

It is evident that Local Orbit’s employees have kept a close eye on the growing food economy.  In the future, the business will continue aligning its goals with the market’s needs, increasing connectivity and collaboration with other supply chains and businesses.  Local Orbit’s new workshop is set to premiere in November called Transparency, Collaboration, and Shared Values in Local Food Economies.  

Following the workshop, Block will hit the stage at the Change Food Festival in New York to talk about Local Orbit’s successes.

“It’s a really great mix of business, media, and policy leaders working on improving the food system,” she said.   

Learn more about Local Orbit here: localorbit.com/

About the Author

Chucky Blackmore

Chucky Blackmore

Chucky Blackmore is a fifth-year studying English and Education, with a minor in ESL at Aquinas College. Chucky is also a Resident Assistant and plays lead guitar in Grand Rapids based band Velcrofibs.