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 millionaire by age 33.

Growing up on a farm in Newburgh, N.Y., she was scarred and disfigured as a toddler in an unfortunate accident. Donna faced continued difficulties when she lost her mother at age 14, leaving her to raise her two younger sisters.  Her young adult life was filled with sadness and pain, which evolved into failed marriages and abusive relationships. 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. She has and continues to serve on many profit and non-profit Board of Directors.

Knowing first hand 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. Teaching from her own experiences, giving sensible and useful tips and techniques that every woman can use, and inspiring women with her faith in their ability to create miracles in their own lives, Donna is living proof that every ordinary woman has an extraordinary life waiting for her.

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 on the water in Cornwall on Hudson, N.Y., and Longboat Key, Fla. Together they enjoy gardening, entertaining, exploring new cultures and spending time with their eight exceptional grandchildren.

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