Donatella Arpaia: Serial Entreprenista, Attorney turned Restaurateur and Head Judge on Iron Chef America

Copy of Website Header Template (7)

Describe your business in a few words:

Donatella Arpaia is a serial entrepreneur, trailblazing attorney turned restaurateur, celebrity chef, cookbook author, motivational speaker, brand ambassador, and mother. Donatella is best known for her recurring role as Head Judge on Iron Chef America.

What was your background prior to starting your own business?

My background was growing up in the business, but I never worked in the restaurant, my father never wanted that for me so technically I didn’t have the correct “background”. I did have a very real insight into what a difficult business it actually was. I was extremely driven and passionate about Italian food and the service industry. There were very few women in the industry, it was completely male dominated, so I didn’t have any other women I could speak to about fine dining in NYC.

Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

I knew that I was very driven to succeed in life and I thought that meant to succeed as a lawyer, but when I actually started to work as a lawyer, I almost immediately realized that not only was the practice of law not a career that I wanted, but that working in that law office was the last time I was ever going to have a boss. Once I made the jump to becoming an entrepreneur, I never once looked back and knew there would be no other path for me. When I jumped ship after only a few months of practice and once I became an entrepreneur I knew there would be no other path for me, being an entrepreneur really defines who I am.

Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out, and did it go as planned?

Truthfully when I launched my first restaurant in the late nineties, I really didn’t have a marketing plan nor the funds for one. I quickly realized not only the importance of PR and marketing, but that I was uniquely gifted at it. Initially, my marketing plan was very grass roots, I started marketing myself without even realizing it back then and building a brand based on me, because I had no choice, no more money, and a huge rent to pay. Literally every customer that walked into my restaurant was mine to win over. I made them feel extremely special and taken care of, I learned every name and would write down all their preferences, I would ask them for a business card and hand write them a personal thank you card for coming to my restaurant. I cannot overestimate the impact these handwritten notes had. I literally built my customer base one at a time. Customers were so moved by the attorney turned restaurateur who was offering the best in customer service. Everyone always asks “what is your favorite restaurant?”, and the answer undeniably will be the one where you are recognized and made to feel special. 20 years later, this is truer than ever, especially when we can’t even get a live person to answer the phone.


I also had to give great food and service, that was a given, but in the early days and in a competitive market when I was a complete unknown, what gave me the competitive advantage was my personalized customer service and attention to details. I made every customer feel like they were the most important person to me, and it worked because they were! Slowly but surely, my restaurant became the “who’s-who hangout” for politicians and celebrities. It was a popular hangout for Walter Cronkite, Mary J. Blige, and more.

What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?

The accomplishment I am most proud of is not any award or achieving a certain profit but my resilience. Resilience is a key success factor for an entrepreneur. Resilience and maintaining my integrity through many storms is something very important to me.

Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?

I believe in it more than ever and have made it a mission recently to find more balance. When I was younger and single, I had no balance, I was all work and at the time it worked for me. When I became a mom for the first time at 40, and then a mom to twins in my mid forties, I craved balance. I found I wasn’t very good at any one of my roles if I didn’t strive for balance and that means making time not only for my work, my children, and my husband, but time for myself also.

What have you achieved recently that you’d like to celebrate with our community?

I’m proud of my work with Philips as their brand ambassador, it grew out of the pandemic, and I love how my business is constantly evolving with my life. I’m proud of the content my team created at philipsbydonatella.com to help busy working parents put healthy food on the table for their family.

What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?

I am actively looking to open a restaurant in my new hometown of Miami, write another cookbook, and I am enjoying motivational speaking engagements. I am also building a new website with e-commerce attached. I have a lot going on!

What excites you about being an Entreprenista League member?

I wish they had this league when I started as an entrepreneur! Brava to the founders, how can I not be excited about a league of like-minded motivated women wanting to elevate other women through community?! I find female entrepreneurs to be so generous with their need to share their story and to help other women. It’s hard to find other women like me, although I know there are a lot of us out there. We can all share what we have learned and help others on their journey.

Learn more about the Entreprenista League and join today!

Share it!

Posted in
Tags

Leave a Comment





Teqnizan Founder Rama Prasad on Creating Functional and Fashionable Earbuds

First, let’s get to know Rama! Rama Prasad is the Founder CEO of Teqnizan located in Minneapolis. Teqnizan has explored, invented, patented, and is selling wireless bluetooth audio earrings. The earrings look and feel like jewelry earrings, and function like an earbud audio device. Rama, what excites you about being an Entreprenista League member? The…

Harvick Farms Founder Lainey Harvick on Growing Community Awareness Around Homesteading

Hello Lainey! Please tell us a little about yourself. In 2015, I became a nurse and worked in the ER through the pandemic. Gardening was a way to provide an outlet from the high-intensity career. As a mother, nurse, and avid gardener who understands the value of having support and resources I could see there…

Meet Mamaprenista Olivia Dreizen Howell and Learn How She Shifted the Cultural Narrative through Fresh Starts Registry

Hello Olivia! Please share a little bit about your business: Fresh Starts Registry is the first and only platform for everything you need to start again. We are shifting the cultural narrative to celebrate big, bold, and brave life decisions. Whether it’s a divorce, breakup, moving, job change, stepping into your truth, or any big…

Founder of Clairebella, Kathy Story, on Creating and Sharing her Artwork

Hello Kathy! Tell us a little about yourself. I am the founder and artist behind Clairebella. Clairebella is a lifestyle brand of colorful gifts and home décor. We believe every day items should spark joy. What excites you about being an Entreprenista League member? I am excited to connect with other women, support women, and…

Huckleberry Creative’s Jess Coleman on Developing Strategic Insights You Need to Deliver High Quality Work

Before we get started, here is some background information on our fabulous entreprenista Jess: Jess Coleman is the founder of Huckleberry Creative, a full-service website design and development studio with a mission to make it easy and fun for entrepreneurs to share their genius with the world. She’s an experienced marketer, copywriter, and designer who…

Marketing Maven Brooke Latham on Launching Social Canvas

Hello Brooke! Please share a little bit about yourself. As a marketing strategist, I am passionate about helping business owners grow their brands by creating comprehensive sales funnels designed to attract, convert and retain their ideal clients. My business, Social Canvas, is a full-service marketing agency specializing in working with organizations of purpose. What excites…

Emma Vollrath on Founding Her Sustainable and Innovative Athleisure Brand: Emma Lou

Hi Emma! Let’s first talk about Emma Lou: Hi! My name is Emma Vollrath, and I am the founder of Emma Lou, an innovative athleisure brand using recycled, sweat-enhancing fabrics to beat bloat, decrease water weight retention, and support women in overcoming lower stomach insecurities. Our recycled thermoplastic fabric is designed with an insulating property that…

Growing Your Business with Carlyn Bushman of Carlyn Bushman Consulting

When Carlyn stepped into Entrepreneurship to be closer to her four children, she thought it would be easy. After her first business came to an end, she realized her real passion was in helping other women grow their businesses, thus she created Carlyn Bushman Consulting.  In this episode, we sit down with Carlyn Bushman, founder…

A Web3 Deep Dive with Laurie Segall

Today, we’re sitting down with Laurie Segall, a journalist and former senior technology correspondent and an editor-at-large at CNN. Laurie has interviewed tech titans like Mark Zuckerburg and Tim Cook, and is also the co-founder and executive producer of Dot Dot Dot Media, a news and entertainment company devoted to tech and humanity. Listen in…

10 Tech Solutions Entreprenistas Can Use to Operate and Grow Their Business

Entreprenistas have a lot of pressures to navigate when building their business. Between wearing multiple hats to keep everything running from managing finances, staffing, marketing and more — it can be a lot to juggle from sunrise to sunset.  Thanks to technology, several tools are designed to streamline business operations to make life easier and…

Secrets to a Successful Fundraise with Andrea Ippolito of SimpliFed

After struggling to feed her daughter by breastfeeding, Andrea was lost and didn’t know what to do. This is unfortunately a story that is common amongst new moms. But for Andrea, she decided to change the narrative by making it her mission to educate new moms and help them meet their feeding goals.  Today, we…

Alicia McKenzie’s Mamaprenista Journey Launching Lift Like a Mother

Alicia, how did you start fostering your entrepreneurial spirit? McKenzie Enterprise dba Lift Like A Mother™ began as a way for me to share training videos with my coaches during my athletic career. Over the years, it has evolved into a coaching practice I am so proud of and a separate nonprofit to help me…

Entreprenista Honors Top 100 Women Business Leaders of 2022

Entreprenista 100 winners will be recognized at a celebration & networking luncheon this March NEW YORK, Jan. 17, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — The Entreprenista League, a leading membership community for ambitious, entrepreneurial women, is excited to announce the winners of its inaugural Entreprenista 100 Awards. Presented in partnership with Chase Ink, the Entreprenista 100 Awards honors 100 exemplary…

Investigating the Metaverse: The Legal Side of Web3 with Jennifer Justice

One of the most intimidating things about Web3 is the sometimes-murky legal side of things. There are a fair amount of scams out there and it can feel pretty overwhelming, but luckily there are people who have it all figured out—and you’ll meet one of them today.  We’re sitting down with Jennifer Justice, an entertainment…

The Business of Helping Children Learn with Caitlin Greer Meister of The Greer Meister Group

As a life-long teacher, Caitlin knew from a young age that her calling was helping children. So she started tutoring, then that turned into educational consulting. Once the pandemic hit, business exploded as more schools needed her consulting for remote learning. Today, she’s about to take her business nationwide.  In today’s episode, we sit down…