Catholic entrepreneur launches St. Joseph Business Guild

| Sam Patet | July 25, 2019 | 0 Comments

Retired business owner Roger Vasko of St. Peter in North St. Paul hopes his new organization will help connect the faith and business worlds. Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

Like any good entrepreneur, Roger Vasko has a knack for getting businesses to thrive. At age 28, he bought his father’s business — Vasko Rubbish Removal — with his younger brother and proceeded to expand its client base sevenfold over the next 18 years, from 150 businesses to 1,100.

Now retired, Vasko, 60, is focused on a new opportunity that, if successful, is poised to help Catholic business owners, workers and organizations thrive in an uncertain economy. In February, he and three friends from St. Peter in North St. Paul launched the St. Joseph Business Guild.

“This is something I’m used to doing,” Vasko said about launching the guild. “It’s kind of like building a business.”

According to its website, the guild seeks to connect “Catholic business owners to workers and customers” and provide its “members with opportunities for professional and spiritual growth.”

Vasko and his colleagues founded the guild after hearing multiple stories of Catholics who were struggling to make ends meet.

“Families … were struggling financially, whether it was inability to live on one income, trouble saving for a down payment or worrying about affording another child,” he said. “It became clear that Catholic families needed help.”

One of Vasko’s partners in launching the guild is Bret Sutton, 40, who serves as director of development and stewardship at St. John the Baptist in New Brighton.

“We believe strongly in the dignity of the human person, entrepreneurship and strengthening the family,” he said in an email.

Like other professional networking groups, the guild will provide its members with resources to help them succeed, whether they’re business owners looking for employees or freelancers on the hunt for new opportunities. Vasko said these resources will include an online job board and business directory, quarterly networking meetings, mentorship opportunities and classes on a variety of topics, including how to develop a business plan, motivating employees and interviewing for a job.

Unlike other networking groups, the St. Joseph Business Guild will provide its members with opportunities for spiritual enrichment — something that’s needed now more than ever, Sutton said.

“What I’m most excited to see is businessmen and women … bringing together these two powerful worlds — faith and business — to energize and rejuvenate not only our Church but (also) our greater society,” he said.

The group’s spiritual focus is why Vasko and Sutton chose to call it a guild. Their website notes that guilds are “association(s) of workers for collaborative aid and self-help inspired by spiritual values.” During their heyday in medieval Europe, guilds existed for all sorts of workers, including weavers, dyers and merchants. Naming it after St. Joseph also was intentional, as he’s the patron saint of workers.

Some of the spiritual components they plan to offer include having Mass at their quarterly meetings, hosting an annual retreat and providing links on their website to Church documents, book reviews and other resources that focus on the nature of work.

Membership in the guild is open to Catholics who are registered at a parish in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and who agree with the guild’s statement of faith and values. There are seven membership types, including ones for business owners, salespersons and mentors. Four membership types have dues, which range from $25 to $200 annually, and three types have no dues, including one for Catholic parishes and nonprofits.

Vasko knows he and his colleagues have their work cut out for them in getting the guild off the ground. But he’s confident their big idea will carry the project forward.

“It’s already starting to work,” Vasko said, referring to the guild’s early successes. “So I know on a bigger scale it will really go.”

For more information about St. Joseph Business Guild, visit sjbusinessguild.com.

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