A Business Startup Program For Teenagers Is Launched By A Catholic Entrepreneur

A Business Startup Program For Teenagers Is Launched By A Catholic Entrepreneur

Unexpectedly, Luke Burgis traveled to Silicon Valley to build a business. Little did he know that he would eventually become a seminarian and start entrepreneurship programs for Catholic students.

Before realizing he sought more purpose in his life, Burgis had attended NYU, worked on Wall Street, founded many companies in Silicon Valley, and relocated to Las Vegas. He was inspired to renew his Catholic religion by a buddy. Even though he finally realized after five years of seminary that he would not become a priest, he still felt that his job lacked greater significance.

Thus, in 2020, he established Catholic Entrepreneurship and Design Experience (CEDE, pronounced “seed”) to assist students nationwide in bridging their professional and religious lives.

After four years, CEDE has grown into a vibrant organization with programs and educational resources available all around the world. It is headquartered at Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington, D.C. Burgis is CUA’s assistant clinical professor of business and the resident entrepreneur. Along with teaching business classes at CUA, he has created instructional resources shared with home-school communities and Catholic schools.

“Even after I’d had that reconversion experience, I didn’t understand how I could actually live out my values and be a Catholic in the business world that I was in,” Burgis commented when asked what motivated him to start CEDE.

“But I knew that there was some gap that we had to close in Catholic education between the theoretical or the principles of Catholic social teaching and the way that it actually plays out on the ground, if you’re trying to start something,” he explained. “We launched CEDE to try to reintegrate these disciplines.”

Burgis is starting a summer entrepreneurship program for high school students this year as a new project for CEDE. Students in high school will learn how to launch a firm through the 10-week virtual Startup Venture Challenge.

Burgis stated that CEDE “introduces students to basic principles of entrepreneurship within the context of Catholic social teaching and helps them understand that, whether they ever start a business or not, they are the entrepreneurs of their own lives.”

“We’re trying to train young Catholics to think more like an entrepreneur, which means finding creative ways to solve problems or to see solutions where other people only see problems,” he said. “We think that that’s really important for all Catholics, period, and that if we had a more entrepreneurial Church, we would have a more adaptive and creative Church.”

“Our goal here is not really to create more business owners,” he explained. “Our goal is to help more young Catholics in Catholic schools be equipped and confident to go out into the world, whatever their vocation is.”

Burgis aimed to make a link between commercial knowledge and Catholic doctrine.

“[At NYU] I just learned: ‘Here’s what profit is. Profit is good. Pursue it,’” he recalled. “Most of my classmates simply wanted to make as much money as they could.”

“When I left seminary, I realized that there was a real disintegration or gap between what I had learned at my Catholic schools … and what things actually look like in practice when you’re actually out there in the world trying to do things,” he explained.

“Experiential learning,” “creative problem-solving,” and independence are key components of CEDE’s educational paradigm, which “differs” from the rules-based system of instruction that many American students are used to, according to Burgis.

“That’s much of what being an entrepreneur feels like,” he said of the model. “You’re not given a roadmap, you’re not told what to do, you have to figure things out, and you have to make decisions and take responsibility for those decisions.”

It will feel like “a challenge,” according to Burgis.

“You’re being challenged, being given this mission,” he said. “We want to empower the students to accomplish that mission by working together and finding creative ways to solve problems on their own without being told how to do it. We actually want to make them a little uncomfortable.”

As the first three weeks will be devoted to developing an idea, students are not required to have business ideas in order to participate. A stage of discernment, launch, testing, and a stage of resources and community are all included in the schedule.

“We want them to feel what it feels like to have a fire ignited within themselves, to exercise their own creativity, to take ownership of it, to take total responsibility, and to be proud of that, and to be able to serve others through their gifts and talents,” Burgis said.

The program is entirely virtual and flexible to fit the students’ work schedules; it runs from June 10 to August 12. The age range for teenagers who want to apply is 14–18.