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Driven senior in start-up contest

A 19-year-old senior—who began college at the young age of 15—is aiming for another success: Opening her own business and helping teenagers realize their entrepreneurial dreams.

Maria Warith ’13 has submitted a business plan to the IERVA Start-Up Competition in her hometown of Richmond, Virginia. The winner, who receives the most votes in an online contest, gets $10,000 in start-up money and rental space for six months.



Maria Warith ’13 has submitted a business plan to the IERVA Start-Up Competition in her hometown of Richmond, Virginia.

Her business-to-be is called Rock-A-Roma, which allows customers to make natural bath salts and scented aromatherapy rocks, and would employ teenagers. But this ambitious concept is not Warith’s first—at the age of 16 she launched a nonprofit organization to help educate schoolchildren.

“One of my goals is to extract success and entrepreneurial skills out of children at a young age,” Warith said.

Warith’s Children Entrepreneurs Secure in Success (CHESS) Foundation is a registered nonprofit organization in Richmond that relies on volunteers and a paid tutor to help kids fifth grade and younger, and is focused on the arts.

A Political Communication major, Warith transferred to Emerson in the fall of 2011 from Mary Baldwin College in Virginia, where she studied in a program for the exceptionally gifted. However, she said studying in Boston and in the College’s Washington, D.C., program has expanded her worldview.

“Emerson has given me the confidence to compete,” Warith said. “Being in a diverse city like Boston… and just seeing the competition that’s out there, you realize you don’t really have the space to just slack off.”

When asked where she gets her motivation, Warith responded, “Probably my dad.”

“My dad had several different businesses,” Warith said of her late father, Yahya Warith, who died in May 2011 at the age of 72. He was a minister and owned a popular car dealership, bookstore, and several restaurants. Her mother, Qaadira Warith, is also a minister.

“I definitely think my parents have given me that mindset,” she said.

Warith is the second-youngest of 13 children.

She got the idea for Rock-A-Roma about four years ago.

“I’ve always played with rocks as a kid, and I was just bored one day,” she said.

Warith and her mom purchased materials to produce the aromatherapy rocks, like scents, oils, and paints, then sold them in a booth they rented at the Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. She made about $500 in one week.

Warith is a member of the Emerson College Polling Society and Emerson’s Black Organization with Natural Interest (EBONI), along with a handful of other student organizations.

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