On Global Filipinos: Sheila Marcelo is 1st FilAm woman CEO on Wall Street

Sheila Marcelo at the Aspen Ideas Festival. A conversation with Aspen Institute’s Peggy Clark about her journey to entrepreneurship.

Sheila Marcelo at the Aspen Ideas Festival. A conversation with Aspen Institute’s Peggy Clark about her journey to entrepreneurship.

By Loida Nicolas Lewis

Sheila Lirio Marcelo is one of only 3% women CEOs in public traded companies. Five years ago, on January 24, 2014, the company Care.com she founded in 2006 was listed in the New York Stock Exchange with the ticker symbol CRCM.

Care.com — headquartered in Waltham, Massachusetts — is the world’s largest online destination for finding and managing family care, serving more than 27 million people across 20 countries.

As Care.com has grown and scaled, Sheila has been honored with numerous accolades, including being named one of the “Top 10 Women Entrepreneurs” by Fortune Magazine. In 2014, she was the youngest recipient of the Harvard Business School Alumni Achievement Award.

How did she become such a towering figure in the business world? Her own words below would best reveal the phenomenon that is Sheila Lirio Marcelo.

I was born in Manila. My parents, Dario and Amelia Lirio, are from the town of Candelaria, Quezon. My father, or “Papa,” was very nurturing, like a Teddy Bear Dad. And my mom, or “Mama,” was the Tiger Mom – always pushing us to excel and challenge ourselves.

They were entrepreneurs. They were always excited about starting new businesses – anything from duck farms, to rice mills, to trucking. We moved to the U.S. when I was 6 years old, and spent part of my childhood in Houston, Texas.

When we returned home to the Philippines, my parents sent my younger brother and me to school in Quezon province to re-learn Tagalog. Every week, at school, all of us children in class were expected to help clean our classrooms. I learned to get down on my hands and knees and clean the floors with polish and also coconut husks to give it a good shine. It was hard work, but it truly gave me a sense of humility and proximity and now pride – I’m great at cleaning floors. That was probably one of the most influential years of my life. Then, when I was 11, I followed my older siblings and attended the Brent International School in Baguio, where I graduated high school.

On January 24, 2014, Care.com went public. Photo by Ben Hider/NYSE

On January 24, 2014, Care.com went public. Photo by Ben Hider/NYSE

When I returned to the U.S. for college, I attended Mount Holyoke, an all-women’s college in Western Massachusetts, to study economics and international relations. In a lot of ways, it was the beginning of where the plan went out the window and I started down the unexpected path that led me to where I am today.

I met my husband, Ron Marcelo, one of the founders of the first-ever FIND (the Filipino Intercollegiate Networking Dialogue – an annual conference bringing FilAm and Filipino college and grad students across the East Coast), hosted at Yale University. We were married by the end of my sophomore year — and I was expecting. It wasn’t easy being pregnant in college, let alone being a mother. We struggled to find child care, and I even took exams while bouncing our baby, Ryan, in a baby carrier. But I will tell you: I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Those experiences helped me realize the perception of others isn’t really what matters in the end. It’s what’s inside you that counts.

We founded Care.com in 2006, but the inspiration for the company goes back a bit further.

After Harvard Business School, we both worked at Upromise, an online loyalty program startup that helps families save for college. We had no family in the area, so my parents came over from the Philippines to look after our little guys. It was a huge relief. But a few months later, my father was walking up the stairs holding Baby Adam and he fell backwards down the stairs because he had a heart attack. Suddenly, I was ‘sandwiched’ – taking care of both a young child and an aging parent at the same time. Ron and I were both working for tech companies, but to find care for our family, we realized there was no modern solution. We literally relied on the Yellow Pages to find caregivers.

Having seen the power of technology and the Internet, I thought we could use technology to improve the way millions of families like ours find care and help caregivers find work as well. And I thought this was the kind of inclusive innovation that can make a positive impact on the world around us.

It is only fitting that, as a Filipina, I founded Care.com. The Philippines has a very nurturing culture and is one of the biggest exporters of care in the world. In the U.S. we’re best known for being the world’s largest marketplace for care.

But we also have a global vision. We have partnered with a dear friend, Doris Magsaysay Ho, a Filipina who runs Magsaysay People Resources Corp. to offset worldwide health care staffing shortages. We match a supply of trained nurses from the Philippines with institutions in countries like Germany. We call this service CareWithCare.

Ron and I were married 27 years ago at the University of Southern California chapel. We have gone through a lot and grown together. The greatest gift in our journey is our close relationship with both our boys, Ryan and Adam, and the influence my parents had in helping raise them. As we say at Care.com, it takes a village to raise a child!

Our older son, Ryan, works in business development at an international private equity firm called Meridiam. We love that it is a mission-oriented firm helping build roads, bridges, hospitals and other infrastructure helping people’s lives. Our younger son, Adam, will attend Yale (his father’s alma mater) in the Fall after his gap year.

There you have it, the incredible Sheila Lirio Marcelo.

© The FilAm 2019

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