Research, research, research…knowledge is power, and it’s easy to get caught up in day-to-day activities without learning something new.
A native New Yorker, Pat Bobker was raised working in the family Pennsylvania General Store since age 9. She eventually moved to Maine and remodeled/designed a 6,000 sq. ft. space into a busy high-end gourmet, local & organic cafe/coffee house, which also served as a vibrant arts mecca. Founder of the UMA Honors Program Assoc., she graduated with a B.A. cum laude, with the honor of “Most Distinguished Student” Award. Hundreds of her feature/cover articles appear in scores of national and regional publications, and her dedication to education over the years includes teaching elementary students and chairing a school board. An avid volunteer and community leader, she spent 10+ years professionally in nonprofit development, public speaking, event planning, and fundraising. Presently Head Chef at MCHPP (Midcoast Maine Hunger Prevention Program), she continues teaching college humanities as a private and online teacher. She lives with her husband, dog Benji, and has a son away in college.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
The name “Soup to Nuts” Coffee House came to me one night when I was trying to come up with a catchy, memorable name that made sense. Time was running out, and one night I was burning the midnight oil at the computer planning the new business, and when I looked down at the bowl of nuts I had on my desk, it hit me – “Soup to Nuts!” (More than 6 varied gourmet soups were made daily, and the name stuck.)
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
An early riser up by 6 most days, sometimes earlier, I keep a simple regimen. I stretch, meditate/contemplate my issues and my day ahead. I choose positivity and joy, which precedes me wherever I go. I limit caffeine, chemicals and unhealthy foods and focus on a healthy lifestyle with routine varied exercise and outdoor activity whenever possible. Working with students is a joy, and I am always thinking of them and their achievements, even when I’m not face to face with them. As Head Chef at Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program, I bring together endless streams of farm fresh foods from local growers and proprietors into delicious meals for a grateful clientele, with the help of 3 sets of volunteers backing me up. I’m humming after every shift, no matter how busy it is! I plan errands in a loop, nurture friendships, and always aspire to be my best at no matter the undertaking.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I’ve been nicknamed “balloon-thrower” by a close colleague, because I seem to have a never-ending stream of ideas (the blessing AND the curse of being a lifelong writer). But to bring such ideas to life requires first a belief in their validity and plausibility. Once an idea is carefully thought out and researched, it needs a breath of passion. Without passion, tenacity and determination, no idea can germinate. Collaboration comes next; working with others is the best way to combine strengths, various observations and viewpoints, rather than acting as though one is an island.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Electric cars. There’s an excellent 2006 documentary called, “Who Killed the Electric Car?” I recommend it wholeheartedly.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Keeping detailed to-do lists, prioritizing those priorities, and not letting anything languish in “the fish pile.” This was the nickname I heard several years ago for making sure that unsavory or unwanted projects and tasks don’t get ignored for too long… or they’ll really start to stink. Hence the term “fish pile.” I improve my way of using the to-do list, by keeping it brief in terms of specific tasks (preventing large undertakings that contain many steps being any one line-item).
What advice would you give your younger self?
Keep doing what you’re doing in terms of working hard and giving to the community but make a point to fill the well even MORE often. Be it more lunches with peers, dances with friends, road trips with family, outdoor activities and other personal interests, EVERY MONTH ought to have had a healthy dose of all the above.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
That there is no such thing as a “sea gull.” Everyone calls gulls “sea gulls,” but of the 50+ species of gulls, none are a “sea gull.” Though there is a “lake gull,” which really makes it sound unlikely. But it’s true.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Research, research, research. Not Wikipedia, but research from reliable sources. I believe that knowledge is power, and it’s easy to get caught up in day-to-day activities without learning something new. It must become second nature. Not everyone is a natural, voracious learner. But no one ever suffered by becoming one.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I put a stamp of excellence on everything I do; I always go the extra mile. This has resulted in many written accolades over the years from employers, parents of tutor students, school principals, senators, lawyers. . . These bits of proof of my devotion to excellence – in the words of others – have become part of my portfolio and illustrate me well in front of other prospects.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I failed to trust my instincts when I hired an employee about whom I had some doubts. The employee soon wreaked havoc, and, with a military background – was controlling and acting threatening to me as though to prevent retaliation. I called on the wisdom of a peer entrepreneur, who made me realize I was being “too nice,” and that the staff, clientele and myself would all benefit without this negative energy. I did lay her off, and she was very aggressive. I held my ground and made wiser future hiring choices thereafter.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Frozen, fresh baby food. (When my son was weaning onto table food, I found it was very simple and made all the difference in color, flavor, and nutritional value to steam, puree’ and freeze various foods into ice cube trays. Then the “cubes” could be sold in bags on the freezer shelf, the way P.F. Chang’s has bags of fresh-frozen food including frozen cubes of sauce. Our society is riddled with problems stemming from poor quality foods being served to our children.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Just this week. A $100 gift certificate for my out-of-state college son to receive top shelf, frozen, grill-able foods for healthy choices and to support his growing interest in becoming a great chef like his mom. He pulls a double major in business and aquaculture, while partnering in an aquaculture business growing oysters. He deserves a break today!
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Monday.com is an excellent time management program that enables me to easily see what I need to do each day, in simple graphic layouts. Examples are timelines, charts/graphs, calendars, etc., all interactive and easy to use. My schedule is varied, between teaching, writing and head-chef’ing, plus the balance in my social and home life, so this is a way to best manage my time.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr. It won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the 2015 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. It’s an amazing story about a young, blind Jewish girl, her father, and her first love – a German soldier – during wartime. It paints a deeply rich insight into the lives of wonderful people surviving against the odds a most horrific time. But the main reason to read this book is the beauty that comes from the language, imagery, and enduring love.
What is your favorite quote?
“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Eleanor Roosevelt.
- I realized that my life path, though not in a straight line, has brought my passion in contact with the world, and vice-versa: I was meant to take each step on this path that I’ve taken thus far. Even if it’s a long time if ever before I know the purpose.
- I see the intrinsic value of my son in my life today, even with him being away at university. His wisdom and patience remain sources of silent support that benefits my work and spirit. He is an ever-present rock in my world and for that I’m eternally grateful.
- I noticed that feeding people fresh, delicious and healthy food has been a motif in my life. It’s been a parallel to my school and office work. I get deep joy in nourishing people both through my cooking and through my writing, teaching and community support.
- I was reminded how the power of positive thinking is at the root of success. Even during the most trying times of my life, raising my son while running a business, teaching, and paying the mortgage on
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.