Personal Story

Donna Cornell’s life is a true American success story, rising above incredible odds and adversity to become a highly successful entrepreneur, business owner and self-made multi-millionaire by age 33.

Growing up on a farm in Newburgh, N.Y., she was scarred and disfigured as a toddler in an unfortunate chemical accident. Donna faced continued tragedy when at age 14, she lost her mother, leaving her to raise her two younger sisters, one who was 3 and the other only 11 months old.  Her young adult life was filled with sadness and pain, damaging her ability to cope, to adjust, which evolved into failed marriages and aimless searching for a happier existence.

In continuing pain, she was always searching for someone to make her happy. By the time she was in her twenties, she found herself a single parent with three young children and on the brink of financial and emotional disaster. But Donna, with remarkable courage and strength, began to turn her life around. In 1978, she founded her first business: Career Directions, a small employment agency. Though she had little experience in the business world, she quickly showed her unerring instinct for “what makes business work.” Not content with one success story, Donna kept her vision locked on the future, and built her organization to eventually include eight offices in four states. She has repeated her successful entrepreneurial ventures many times, creating and fostering other businesses nationally and locally. But more than that, her exceptional leadership talents have also been called upon on behalf of many community endeavors. Moved by a strong philanthropic spirit, she has and continues to serve on many profit and non-profit Board of Directors offering wise leadership which has resulted in innumerous community and organizational benefits.

Knowing firsthand the hopes and desires that fuel every woman — the hunger for a good family life; loving relationships; material security; and most of all, a deep-down sense of self-worth — has guided Donna to her second career as a motivational speaker, mentor and author with a goal of helping other women create the life of their dreams.

Embraced by both men and women, Donna shares her secrets and steps for doing just that during her presentations. Teaching from her own experiences, giving sensible and useful tips and techniques that every person can use, and inspiring others with her faith in their ability to create miracles in their own lives, Donna is living proof that an ordinary person can create an extraordinary life.

Recognizing that her career and life counseling skills and knowledge have helped people make remarkable changes in their lives, Donna continues to offer counseling and speaking services to organizations nationwide.

Donna has been happily married since 1984 to the Honorable Jeffery Werner, and is the proud mother of four children, Danny, Bret, Erica and Ryan. She and Jeff live in Cornwall on Hudson, N.Y., and Longboat Key, Fla. Together they enjoy gardening, entertaining, international travel which has allowed them to explore new cultures and spending time with their nine exceptional grandchildren and pets.

Donna Cornell speaking at Elant
Donna Cornell with Josh Sommers
Donna Cornell
Donna Cornell
Donna Cornell
Donna Cornell
Donna Cornell at Women's Breakfast
Donna Cornell with US Air Force
Donna Cornell, Chairperson
Donna Cornell leads discussion
Elant Ribbon Cutting
Chairperson - Chamber of Commerce
Women of Distinction
Donna Cornell receives award