By Cynthia de Castro/Asianjournal.com
The New York Post refers to the Stevie Awards as “the business world’s own Oscar Awards”. Thus, when Sheila Lirio Marcelo, founder and CEO of Care.com got a Stevie Award for Women in Business in its 4th annual awards a few months ago, it was no mean feat.
Considering that Sheila’s company, Care.com, got the judges’ nod for Best New Company of the Year among tens of thousands of new companies formed every year in the US and bearing in mind that Stevie Awards’ past judges include the likes of Donald Trump and Gary Hammel (named by Fortune Magazine as the world’s leading expert on business strategy), Sheila should be proud indeed.
And yet, this humble Filipino American simply describes herself as a “a working mom, entrepreneur, and blogger” (who likes cook ing adobo, pancit, sinigang, leche flan and sinukmani). Originally hailing from Candelaria, Quezon, Sheila graduated in high school from Brent International School in Baguio. Then, her parents took her and her six siblings to immigrate to the US.
Sheila took up Economics at the Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts where she graduated magna cum laude. While in college, she met and married her husband, Ron Marcelo, a Bicolano from Naga, who was then studying in Yale. Like Sheila, Ron was very active in Filipino organizations in the university. He founded the FilAm organization, KASAMA, in Yale while Sheila taught and danced Filipino cultural dances in Mount Holyoke.
Sheila went on to pursue dual degrees from Harvard Business School and Harvard Law School, graduating with honors and receiving two prestigious awards: the Dean’s Award for overall leadership and contributions to Harvard Business School; and the Fitzie Foundation Award, given by the Margaret Fitzgerald Grogan Petersmeyer Foundation, which honors the most outstanding female students.
Like her husband Ron, Sheila is an internet specialist. After teaching at the Harvard Business School, Sheila worked as an executive at several successful companies: Upromise.com, an online service helping families save money for college; TheLadders.com, an online job search website for executives; and a venture capital firm, Matrix Partners.
Then, a family crisis led to an idea for a new business.
“Over the years, Ron and I frequently needed care providers for our two sons. My father had a quadruple bypass surgery and we had a hard time looking for a good caregiver. In Spring 2006, we had a crisis while trying to find reliable care for our family. It was a very painful experience. Luckily, through sheer chance and persistence, we found a wonderful nanny, Amanda, who joined our family and brought joy and peace to our lives. But finding Amanda wasn’t easy. Given my professional background and experience, I started thinking about a consumer Internet business that could help families avoid the suffering and frustration we went through. That experience raised my awareness of the fact that no online site existed for addressing the constantly changing care needs of many families out there. You may have a trusted nanny or a regular pet sitter, but if their personal circumstances change or if they suddenly fall ill, it can be a struggle to find help in a moment’s notice. And so Care.com was born,” Sheila related.
Sheila wrote a business plan for her new concept and managed to get investors who believed in her idea. One write-up about Care.com stated that Marcelo’s concept is actually so ridiculously simple, that you wonder why there hasn’t been an exchange like this before.
For a monthly fee as low as $10, families get unlimited access to a network of child care providers, free background checks on every prospective care provider, e-newsletters offering expert advice, and an inexpensive alternative for families so they always have access to back-up or emergency care.
“After just a year, our company is nationwide now, worth around $15 million,” said Sheila. “We now have 36 full-time staff and we’re growing everyday. It always amazes me to see how much we have grown this company even in a short period of time.”
Sheila has also become a leading expert on providing families with care planning advice, having appeared on NBC’s Today Show and ABC News Now. Additionally, she has been featured in news outlets across the country, including The Boston Globe and Redbook.
What families like best about Care.com is the quality of its care providers. “We aim to provide peace of mind for families looking to address the lifecycle of specific care needs by providing free background checks and a suite of tools and resources for selecting the best care options possible,” said Marcelo.
Asked where she got her entrepreneurial skills, Sheila replied, “My parents owned a lot of different businesses so I guess I got it from them.”
Sheila’s network of care providers include many Filipinos. “We have thousands and thousands of providers listed with Care.com and I’m happy to note that many of them are kababayans. Actually, one of my future goals is to work out something with the Philippine and US government to provide more jobs for more Filipinos. We do plan to add more care services and go international someday,” Sheila stated.
Since Care.com’s success, Sheila has been so busy working, traveling and guesting in shows. But Sheila revealed a welcome respite coming soon, which the family is all eagerly looking forward to. “We’re going home to the Philippines for a visit in June. The last time we were home was in Dec 2005 so we’re excited to go back. Our sons love it there,” Sheila said excitedly.