As a child, Maria Rios used to help her mother clean the office and dreamt that one day she would work in a big beautiful one.
Source: IWEC Foundation
Maria Rios was born in the small town of Mogotillo (El Salvador) into a family of farmers but better off than many in the region.
However, Rios’ affluent life quickly vanished when a civil war forced her family to flee El Salvador.
In the summer of 1980, the Rios family moved to the US, living in a two-bedroom small house north of Houston.
With limited experience and influent English, Rios’s parents cleaned offices for a living.
“We were frugal, shopping at cheap stores. I once asked for a dress but the money had to be used on groceries,” Rios recalls.
For many summers, Rios and helped her mother with the cleaning job.
She used to sit in the most beautiful offices, dreaming that one day it would her workplace.
Difficult family circumstances and marriage at 18 did not prevent Rios from achieving success.
Rios got a job at Western Waste Industries – a company that provides landfills and collects waste from commercial, industrial, and residential customers.
Over 3 years, she moved from a telephone operator to an accountant and finally to the environment department.
During her master’s degree and giving birth to three children, she did not stop working.
In 1997, Rios graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Houston.
After that, she decided to start a business in a field in which she had many years of experience.
The fact that small companies are overlooked by big competitors makes her think that this is a good opportunity to do business, grow and serve the community.
“My father taught me that I cannot accomplish anything alone. Trust, family and community are the things that will help.
It all goes back to the lesson I learned on the farm in El Salvador on how to run a smart and profitable business. If you really give back to the community, you will get the results you deserve,” Rios shared.
At first, Rios’ husband did not agree with her business idea because it was a big risk. “He just wanted me to have a steady job with a monthly salary,” Rios said.
However, Rios wanted more than that. She presented her business plan to the bank and got a loan of $250,000.
She used this money to buy the first two trucks and founded the Nation Waste company (now worth multi-million dollars).
The businesswoman started by attracting small businesses and customers. At first, the company was only able to pay bills and make small profit. Rios reinvested that money to expand the company’s operations.
In August 2005, when Hurricane Katrina hit Texas, Rios saw it as an opportunity to connect her business with the community. Nation Waste offers a variety of services at discounted price to families and businesses who cannot afford the original rates.
Thanks to that, Nation Waste has been known to more people. The company’s business more than doubled between 2005 and 2010.
The original 2 garbage trucks became more than 30 vehicles and the company has expanded into 4 business units, including compactors, recyclers. and portable toilets.
For her part, Rios owns a fortune of $18 million, according to a 2015 statistic.
“Who would have thought that a little girl from El Salvador could achieve the ‘American dream’. I really put a lot of effort into doing that,” Rios shared.