Umi Organic makes high-quality, fresh organic ramen noodles and noodle-and-sauce kits in Portland, Oregon. Our team is dedicated to delicious food, organic farming, and equity in the food system and our workplace.
The business idea was born when CEO Lola Milholland, then stationed as a journalist, took a week-long noodle-making workshop with ramen companies from around the world. She realized that a local organic ramen noodle brought together her work in food advocacy with her lifelong study of Japanese language and culture — and filled a hole in the market and her own stomach for a topnotch, springy, flavorful noodle.
Lola Milholland, CEO
Lola is a creative food event planner and award-winning writer and multimedia producer. A Portland-native, she studied Japanese language and culture since kindergarten, first in the Portland Public Schools and later at Amherst College and Doshisha University. Before launching Umi, she worked at the nonprofit Ecotrust for eight years on regional food and farming issues and as assistant editor of Edible Portland magazine.
Ayla Ercin, COO
A Columbia Law School graduate, Ayla has practiced business law for the past ten years, first as a lawyer for Wall Street banks and investment houses and for the past four years as a legal advisor and strategist in the Portland small business market, partnering with emerging-growth companies and startups. She is keenly interested in building a strong and committed workplace culture that places special emphasis on promoting the interests of female entrepreneurs and employees.
Theresa Marquez, Chief Adviser
A 40-plus-year veteran of the natural foods industry, Theresa has spent the last 22 years at Organic Valley, the largest organic farmer-owned cooperative in the country, where she grew the company from $5 million in 1994 to over $1 billion as Chief Marketing Executive responsible for sales and marketing. Theresa has been a life-long activist, recognized by the Organic Trade Association with the Organic Leadership Award for her outstanding initiative and devotion to organic.
Gary Robbins, Design Director
A designer with a dedication to print, Gary has worked as a graphic designer, book designer, and art director for more than a decade. In 2009, after a stint at a major East Coast publishing house, Gary founded Container Corps, a multidisciplinary design studio, publishing imprint, printshop, bindery and exhibition space. With Container Corps, he has designed and produced award winning projects for clients such as MoMA, Printed Matter, PICA, and Reed College. Container Corps' publications are in the collections of museums and libraries across the world.
Amanda Plyley, Sales and Marketing Manager
Amanda comes with a background in branding and creative development, marketing for small food businesses, non-profit fundraising, and event planning. She spent ten years building capacity in marketing, sales, and corporate environmental sustainability research for Portfolio 21, a Portland-based independent investment firm. An adventurous home cook since age 9, she has also been, at turns, a prep cook, server, cake decorator, barista, and CSA farm matchmaker.