Martha Hoover

Restaurateur, President, Patachou Inc.

Conventional wisdom says that you do not know where you are going if you have no plan. You can as easily end up somewhere as well as nowhere. Certainly, that was the case in 1989 when I opened Cafe Patachou, my first restaurant in Indianapolis, Indiana.

I opened with the singular vision of having a neighborhood cafe that served the kind of food that I fed my children at home—food that was truly farm fresh and homemade—a radical food philosophy in the late 80s. Truth be known, I opened my first cafe having never worked in a restaurant—ever. I had no training as a chef or as a business executive; I had managed no one but myself and my young family. I am sure now, as I look back, that I was being managed more then I was doing the managing.

We have an amazing endangered species program that protects the most fragile among us, allowing dozens of species to make their way back to a strong recovery after nearly a century of decline. In Indiana alone, the bald eagle population has been restored. Our “own” Indiana bat and more than half a dozen species of mussels have been protected due to the Endangered Species Act.

Nor did I know, on that special opening day, that I was pregnant with my third child. I could have as easily ended up going out of business quickly—the equivalent of nowhere. Instead, I ended up somewhere else—the equivalent of where I am, and the company is, today. The difference in those two very distinct results, being nowhere or somewhere, had more to do with having a clearly identifiable, communicated, and obtainable vision that was accompanied by an executable plan.

What was the plan? It was to do things not as they were being done in the restaurant industry at that time, but as I thought they should be done. My team and I sourced fruit and produce locally and seasonally; we served whole and organic product whenever possible; we supported small family farms and individual businesses. We made food from scratch, and we knew what our ingredients were and where they were from. We treated our staff, our vendors, and our community with respect. We instituted environmental initiatives that were both right for the greater good and good for the business. We grew slowly and strategically. We remained true to the original vision as we expanded, and adjusted the plan as needed. We just celebrated the opening of our 12th restaurant and the creation of our foundation, The Patachou Foundation. We chose to go somewhere instead of nowhere.

The Endangered Species Act operates much the same way for our wildlife. It is our nation’s master plan. Since it was enacted in 1973, something special has, indeed, happened. We have an amazing endangered species program that protects the most fragile among us, allowing dozens of species to make their way back to a strong recovery after nearly a century of decline. In Indiana alone, the bald eagle population has been restored. Our “own” Indiana bat and more than half a dozen species of mussels have been protected due to the Endangered Species Act.

I believe that you can allow life to take its course and risk getting somewhere—or risk getting nowhere. I believe that creating plans allows for success, not random luck. We all have opportunities to plan where we want to end up. Clearly, Congress believed the same about our nation’s wildlife heritage. Instead of allowing for the decline of species to continue, Congress wisely stepped in and passed the Endangered Species Act—thus setting a course for recovery, a course for success.