In celebration of International Women’s Day, March 8, we bring you the story of Sheila Marcelo.
Marcelo created waves in January when Care.com, the company she founded, raised $US91 million in a successful IPO.
But to get to that point, Marcelo had to defy her family’s expectations and turn away from a lucrative career as a lawyer.
Quoting Malcolm Gladwell, Marcelo says that entrepreneurs should be “disagreeable” and focus on their passion without caring about naysayers.
Marcelo would know the truth of that.
She was raised in a Filipino family with six kids and they all had designated professions: one would be the dentist, one would be the accountant … she was the designated lawyer and she dutifully obtained a JD/MBA from Harvard University.
But when it was time to enter the workforce after school, she followed her heart and turned down the high-paying job offers that come to Harvard MBA lawyers. She joined an early stage startup as their eighth employee instead, a company called Upromise.
She always knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur, not a lawyer.
Six years later, in 2006, after a short time as vice president at career startup TheLadders.com, Marcelo founded Care.com. She’s been its CEO ever since.
Care.com helps families find caregivers of all types: special needs, senior care, pet care, housekeeping, tutoring, and so on. Care.com is one of the largest such services, with 9.5 million members spanning 16 countries.
Marcelo’s personal experience of having her first son while still in college gave her the idea for Care.com. She says:
“My husband and I were young college students and we had no family nearby to help us. We got lucky finding good care for our sons but it was hard … harder than it should have to be.”
Like a lot of other entrepreneurs, Marcelo says the key to her success was really her “network.”
“It takes time (to build your network) and, as I like to say, lots of cups of coffee, but if you believe in what you’re trying to build, then it’s worth the effort,” she explains.
In fact, it was through networking that Marcelo had done earlier in life that she met the people who would eventually become her co-founders at Care.com. She explains:
“Because we had worked together before, we had a shared view of what our ideal culture would be and we set out to define it and then build it.”
It was important that the team members were “disagreeable” risk-takers, too, she says.
Managing her priorities has been critical for Marcelo as well. She was frequently told that she would not be able to manage children while pursuing her degrees. But she has successfully juggled being a mum, a wife and a CEO like nobody’s business.
In Marcelo’s words:
“Being a parent and building a company are two of the hardest jobs you’ll ever have. Be honest about the demands on your time, the choices and sacrifices you’ll have to make.
And be open to the idea that how your family works and the roles you and your partner play may be different from stereotypical parenting roles. And that’s ok. It only has to work for your family. And that’s the only standard for success against which you need to measure yourself.”
International Women’s Day, March 8, began in the early 1900’s as a way to advocate for women’s rights. Now it is a celebration of women’s achievements in order to inspire continued progress towards equality.
About the author: Charu Sharma is the author of a forthcoming book on inspiring women entrepreneurs, a TEDx Speaker, and a graduating senior at Mount Holyoke College. Follow her on Twitter at @charu1603.
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