Patachou founder and Women of IU keynote speaker: I am remarkably indebted to IU

The student union at Indiana University Bloomingon had a long-lasting impact on Indianapolis restaurateur Martha Hoover.

When her first restaurant, Café Patachou, opened in 1989, she gave the brunch bistro its famed tagline: a student union for adults.

"When I was a student at IU, the union was our center of campus life," Hoover said. "I wanted my own business, my cafés, to be the center of our neighborhoods' lives."

Fast forward nearly 30 years, and Hoover's neighborhood café has turned into a thriving corporation.

As head of Patachou Inc., Hoover now operates 14 restaurants in Indianapolis, as well as the Patachou Foundation, an organization that provides nutritious after-school meals to at-risk and food-insecure children in the community.

The IU alumna, who has degrees from both IU Bloomington and the IU Robert H. McKinney School of Law at IUPUI, delivered the opening keynote address at last week's inaugural Women of IU conference, which brought together hundreds of female employees from all of Indiana University's nine campuses and regional education centers.

Hoover's speech told the story of her unorthodox but successful career transition from lawyer to restaurant owner.

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Martha Hoover addresses the crowd as keynote speaker at the inaugural Women of IU conference. Photo by Liz Kaye, Indiana University

Here, Hoover shares some additional thoughts on her time at Indiana University, as well as advice for her fellow female entrepreneurs:

Q: How does it feel to be the keynote speaker at the inaugural Women of IU conference?

A: Talk about coming full circle. This is an event that I think is so important and so of the moment. IU not only prepared me for what I was going to be doing right after graduation, but it also helped me prepare for a life much ahead. I think so much of what I do today, I can relate back to experiences that I had at Indiana University.

Q: What is your favorite memory from your time at IU?

A: IU is such a part of my life, and my husband's life. We met when we were both in law school together. I am remarkably indebted to IU and to the time that I spent on the Bloomington and Indianapolis campuses. It was some of the most formative years of my life, and it is where I made friends, met new people and had professors who really transformed my way of looking at the world.

Q: What advice would you give to women who are trying to juggle work and family life?

A: In the early days, when I was truly juggling opening up a new business, a marriage with a husband who was also in the early stages of his career and three young children, I adopted a philosophy very early on in my career that I refer to as "blend." I realized that wherever I was, I couldn't just turn off my business. Or if I was at work, I couldn't turn off what I needed to do at home. I knew that it would work out much better for me if I just gave into that thinking and if I needed to do something during my work day that was for my children, I did it. If I was at home and I needed to do something for my business, I did it.

Q: What advice would you give to female entrepreneurs thinking of opening their own business?

A: If you want to be an entrepreneur, jump in to the deep end of the pool. Do it. Don't talk about it, don't over-plan it; get it going. You're never going to be prepared, you're never going to be ready, your business plan is never going to be perfect, but you should just jump in and swim. That's exactly what I did.