Inspirational, ultra-glamorous entrepreneur Paola Diana is a self-confessed glass-ceiling breaker. She heads up a trio of highly-successful companies and, as a committed advocate of women’s rights, she’s a tireless campaigner for female welfare and employment rights. She talks to Angela Sara West about how she made it to the top.
She’s described as a “real all-rounder”, with a dynamic life seeing her successfully balance motherhood and multiple businesses, proving women are equally capable in the fields of parenthood and entrepreneurship. Paola Diana is the founder of Nanny & Butler and Sigillus, offering invaluable services ranging from high-quality childcare and household help to the exceptional management of luxury experiences.
All Roman roads lead to… London!
Armed with a BA in Political Science and an MA in Communications, she spent five years advising various political and non-profit organisations, and was the director of a think tank supporting former President Romano Prodi, before being appointed Executive Director at ULIBO University, working in project management, coordination and PR.
In 2007, Paola’s first-hand experience of the difficulties of finding high-quality childcare and home help inspired her first business venture. Nanny & Butler was born. The leading global bespoke search consultancy now operates from offices in Rome and London’s Notting Hill, providing high-end services to royals, dignitaries and ultra-high-net-worth individuals in countries including Switzerland, Russia, the Middle East and the U.S. “I took the UK’s business model for nanny services and used it in Italy. I was surprised by the demand when I launched my website.”
Nanny & Butler has set the standard in recruitment for private household staff. Its phenomenal success prompted Paola to found Sigillus, an exclusive luxury lifestyle management company which, she says, occurred organically last year following enquiries at Nanny & Butler: “People would ask for the best interior designer or access to an exclusive event… I saw a huge demand for requests above and beyond household staff recruitment and childcare.”
This world-class company offers discerning clients and busy entrepreneurs the most exclusive, extraordinary, one-of-a-kind lifestyle experiences with the utmost discretion, providing concierge services and professional advice, assistance with developing businesses sustainably, and everything from VIP entry to premium real estate and wedding planning. No mean feat. Whether it’s the latest ‘hard-to-get’ supercar, off-market Picasso art, wedding proposals by helicopter or tracking tigers in India… even space flights! “We make ‘The Impossible Possible’ for our members,” says Paola.
Paola works relentlessly, splitting her time between her native Italy and the UK: “I have an apartment in Mayfair, London and a home in Rome… enjoying both countries’ cultures and weather!” She’s hands-on with both of her businesses, directing the teams and overseeing the day-to-day business operations and strategies.
Passionate about women in business… Proper girl power!
As a mother of two, Paola encountered sexual prejudice on her way to the top: “I struggled to find a job in Italy. I got into politics via a professor I’d previously worked with and then decided to become an entrepreneur so that I could be my own boss and not have to face sexism in my career.”
Paola is particularly passionate about equal rights for women and feels it’s her mission to ensure women are represented equally in both business and life. She’s a massive supporter of Hillary Clinton, who wants to make positive changes for women. “I hope to see a new Thatcher leading the UK very soon!”
In 2006, she founded PariMerito (Equal Merit) a game-changing association and think tank which lobbies and campaigns for female empowerment, and was instrumental in the passing of an Italian law requiring every company board to have at least 30% female representation. “The idea to start PariMerito came very naturally to me. There’s a real gap between opportunities for men and women. We have to network as a society and come together to create this change.”
40s, 50s and beyond…
Somehow, Paola manages to maintain a successful work-life balance. “Life is not just about business and success, but having a loving family you treasure for life. I don’t want to miss any stages of my children’s development.”
Still in her early 40s, it’s a while away yet, but with the big 5-0 the next milestone, does age matter to her? “I love myself more now than ever. Before, I was more insecure and spent a lot of time dealing with stupid issues, not focusing on the important things. Now, I feel powerful, strong and successful and definitely don’t care about age! Honestly, age is just a numerical figure, but the mind matters a lot. I feel very young inside and even my daughter’s friends love me and connect with me on social media. I surround myself with happy, positive and energetic people to boost optimistic energy, which makes me happy and feel young. It all comes from within.”
A large slice of her market is the over-50s category and she feels she understands this age group extremely well: “Women this age are our best clients as they appreciate life more, know what they want and are more open to enjoy things to the fullest.”
Stylish Paola clearly takes care of herself: “I have a massage every week, do yoga and meditation to revitalise my body and mind, and walk whenever I can to stay fit. I love the classic, powerful, elegant look with a touch of sexy. I’m not afraid of showing my curves. I admire Italian designers, but I do appreciate Chanel. Givenchy and Balenciaga are also favourites.”
Any guilty pleasures? “Many! I love food, especially Italian, which has the most calories! I love pasta, desserts and Champagne. Years ago, I gave up feeling guilty and started enjoying the food I want. We only have one life and I feel comfortable with myself. That’s all that matters. I disagree with modern culture, which wants us to all be skinny and young forever. Women can be beautiful with all of their curves and signs of ageing…. we don’t all have to fit the stereotypical cookie cutter image.”
So, where does a successful entrepreneur go for some much-needed R&R? “It’s hard to switch off completely, but it’s important to refresh myself and come back to work even stronger. I love spa retreats and having peace of mind by the sea. I adore small islands where I can really relax and feel the sea’s energy. I’m particularly in love with the Maldives… it’s like paradise… and local culture in exotic countries, plus unforgettable experiences such as Safari Tanzania.”
What’s next for this unstoppable entrepreneur? “I’m launching Sigillus in Dubai and New York, then, hopefully, globally. I’m looking into courses in Singularity University in L.A., with a view to creating a new business linked to the new things I’ll learn.”
Finally, can women have it all? “Yes, of course! But first of all, they need to want it all. Be ambitious and then take it all!”