North St. Paul parishioners form new business guild


Solomon Gustavo North St. Paul resident and former businessman Roger Vasko, who attends Church of St. Peter in North St. Paul, is the president of the new St. Joseph Business Guild. The association’s aim is to help Catholic businesses and families.

In the medieval age between the 5th and 15th centuries, Catholic craftspeople and merchants were part of a system of guilds. These guilds, or associations, helped train new craftspeople and made sure crafts and merchant goods were of high quality for customers. 

“During the Middle Ages, the middle class enjoyed the best wage gains and working conditions they ever had,” says Roger Vasko. 

Vasko, a decades-long North St. Paul resident, along with other parishioners of Church of St. Peter in North St. Paul, noticed that times for the middle class these days are tough. To help, they decided to bring back the guild tradition. 

At church, like anywhere else, word gets around. Vasko says the scuttlebut lately seems to revolve around one thing — families struggling financially. The problems are familiar: struggles with student debt, trouble finding good-paying work, being too broke for a down payment, or just not having the resources to have more kids.

Vasko says a way out is having Catholics and Catholic businesses support one another.

“’What if we kept money spent by Catholics in the family by directing money from the pews to Catholic business?’” Vasko says he thought, before taking the idea to family and friends. 

They agreed it was a good plan and the nonprofit St. Joseph Business Guild was born. The guild, still in its infancy having started last month, has 14 members. St. Joseph is the patron saint of working people.

It’s strictly for registered Catholics. “That means registered, not just going [to church] once in a while,” says Vasko, who is president of the guild and a member of its four-person board.

 

Guild modern 

Catholic businesses, entrepreneurs, salespeople, business professionals with hiring and purchasing power, and individual Catholics looking for work can join. 

Members will have their information in a directory that will be put in church bulletins in parishes, Vasko says.

The business directory will be available to everyone, but the job board will be only for members. Individual members looking for a job, or looking for a better job, can log into a website and see the private job list. 

This way, says Vasko, who is a retired business owner, hiring managers can post a job to replace an employee privately. The members-only privacy also allows job-seekers to upload their resume without fear their current employers will see it. 

It costs $35 for individuals to join the guild. Business memberships are $50-$200, depending on the size of the operation.

Vasko says the guild is aiming to add bigger Catholic employers so the directory is stuffed with jobs, but that membership will mainly be invitation-only to maintain a reputation of quality jobs. The directory won’t be promoted until its been filled with more jobs, says Vasko. 

The guild will attempt to make life easier for local parishioners by offering a directory of jobs and trusted business people in the spirit of the Middle Ages guild system, but with a few modern tweaks. 

Vasko says the term “baker’s dozen” comes from the guild system. “In the baker’s guild, they would bake 12 to sell and give the 13th to the poor.”

The St. Joseph’s Guild won’t be donating to charity, says Vasko, but offering small tuition grants. They won’t be for college tuition — the grants will go toward classes for online career training like how to manage ads on Facebook, or other career-specific training courses that Vasko says often cost around $1,100.

Vasko says the St. Joseph Guild is going to help people look at “options for something other than college” for themselves and their children in order to avoid student loan debt that weighs so many families down. “That’s how we’ll use our extra money.”

The guild will also accept mentor members for free. Mentors, says Vasko, will help members with interview and resume prep, give insights into making career changes and tips on how to come up with a business plan. 

For more information about the guild go to www.sjbusinessguild.com or contact Vasko at roger@sjbusinessguild.com.

 

–Solomon Gustavo can be reached at sgustavo@lillienews.com or 651-748-7815.

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