Sneak Peek: Sheila Marcelo

Sneak Peek: Sheila Marcelo
Photos by Christopher Huang, NAAAP Volunteer, for ALIST Magazine

Photos by Christopher Huang, NAAAP Volunteer, for ALIST Magazine

Like all crises, the big one in Sheila Marcelo’s life happened when she could least afford it. At the time, Marcelo was juggling multiple roles – graduate student and working mother of two – when her father had a heart attack while carrying her baby up a flight of stairs. She suddenly faced a huge problem – not only did she need care for her father, but she also needed help for her mother, care for her two young children, and overall peace of mind as a young professional managing multiple responsibilities at work, school and home.

Although she eventually pieced together care for her family, this experience stuck with Marcelo, and later inspired her to found in 2006, an online service that matches families with caregivers. Headquartered in Boston, offers a breadth of care solutions, including childcare, special needs, senior care, pet care, tutoring, housekeeping, and benefits solutions for corporations.

“When it was time to start my own company, I knew that helping families find affordable, reliable, quality care was something that could truly make a difference,” says Marcelo.

Under Marcelo’s leadership, has garnered funding from Silicon Valley’s top venture capitalists, such as angel investor and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman. However, the most important vote of confidence may be from the over 7 million members who consistently use its services.

Roots of Her Entrepreneurial Spirit

As a female and Filipino-American, Marcelo is not your usual CEO. Women make up less than 2% of top executive positions in corporate America, and Asian Americans make up less than 2% of Fortune 500 CEOs. What is Marcelo’s background and how did it prepare her to lead a fast-growing Internet company?

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Photos by Christopher Huang, NAAAP Volunteer, for ALIST Magazine

While Marcelo’s own personal emergency helped light the idea for, her entrepreneurial spirit can be traced back to her childhood in Asia. Growing up in the Philippines, she witnessed her parents’ determination to explore a variety of business paths to support her and her five siblings. Their entrepreneurial pursuits included real estate, trucking, rice mills, and even chicken and duck farms.

“Watching them then, I saw very Filipino traits: resourcefulness, strong work ethic, innovation, and care for others,” says Marcelo. “I took these lessons to heart and they are very much a part of me and”

Although Marcelo initially gave in to her parents’ wishes for her to be a lawyer and went to Harvard Law School, she couldn’t shake the feeling that her true interests lied in business and entrepreneurship. Following her gut, she simultaneously attended Harvard Business School and became one of a select group of people receiving a joint JD/MBA degree.

Rather than work for an established company or law firm out of graduate school, Marcelo took a risk and joined a new Internet startup called UPromise, which helps families save money for college. She soon went on to work for another Internet company,, a job-matching service for career-driven professionals.

“The two experiences solidified what I’d felt for a long time,” reflects Marcelo. “I wanted to use the power of technology to build a company focused on helping people.”

To read the full story and more, pre-order your Winter 2013 issue of ALIST Magazine today. 

About Jasmine Ako

Jasmine Ako
Jasmine Ako is a Staff Writer at ALIST. When she's not busy working at a charter management organization by day, she also loves to write and volunteer in her spare time. Originally from Honolulu, HI, she is a proud USC graduate and currently lives in LA.