How One Woman Went From Sex Crimes Prosecutor to Restaurant Empire Builder

When it came to describing the many female leaders of our time who are truly breaking new ground in their fields (or making new ones), we were struck as to how. Suddenly words were futile devices. For us, it was more about the energy and the spirit behind the movements these women were creating, which seemed impossible to describe. All of the buzzwords felt limiting and trivial, so we created a new one: Womaneer, also known as a woman who defies societal norms with heroism and tenacity to become a pioneering voice in her field.  

But rather than just decide on those women ourselves, we asked you, our readers, to help us uncover the next wave of leading voices, and you certainly delivered. We had over 100 nominations spotlighting the work of incredibly inspiring women who are making major moves and disrupting many traditionally male-dominated industries along the way. After several meetings, our Womaneer committee made its final vote, and we're beyond thrilled to announce that our first community nomination is Martha Hoover.

Thirty years ago, and with no experience in the hospitality industry, Hoover left her role as a sex crimes prosecutor to launch her first restaurant, Café Patachou, in 1989. Now she is well on her way to building an empire with 14 restaurants with a focus on local, seasonal ingredients. She is also a James Beard Award semifinalist, but there's so much more to Hoover's success story than her business portfolio. She is incredibly passionate about the culture, people, and communities of her restaurants. She launched Patachou Foundation to feed wholesome meals to food-insecure school children across Indianapolis and also teach them to create healthy habits.

This month, our co-founders Hillary Kerr and CEO Katherine Power will co-host our inaugural Womaneer Power Lunch in Los Angeles, where we will honor Hoover and nine other female pioneers to put a spotlight on their groundbreaking work. Read on to learn more about Hoover's incredible career, the challenges she faced, lessons learned, and why there is still more work to be done to ensure workplace equality.