Matt Martinusen lost his job at a precarious time. He was the sole breadwinner, and his wife, Lisa, a stay-at-home mom, had just had their third baby.
The non-profit Matt had been working for was running out of money due to COVID. They had to let him go. It was the day before his birthday.
“Losing that full-time income was scary,” said Matt, now 27, a father of three who belongs to St. Joseph Parish in West St. Paul, Minnesota. They had enough money saved up to support the family for four months.
More important, they had a dream. For the last two years, Matt had been running a little side business as a hobby: the “Catholic Card Game.” It was a Catholic version of the popular game “Cards Against Humanity.” And with the help of two successful Kickstarter campaigns and a lot of input from Lisa, Matt had started selling games.
They were a hit.
But his work on the game had been limited to small pockets of time.
Then, suddenly, he was unemployed.
“I had to go for it,” Matt said. “It was always my dream to be self-employed, but I never knew how. I’d daydream about my quitting my day job to be full-time self-employed, but there was too much security with my day job that I thought I couldn’t lose.”
Now it was sink or swim. Matt set up a makeshift office in his unfinished basement and feverishly set to work.
Day by day, week by week, Matt made inroads. The game enjoyed a wider reach. It was played by Bishop Robert Barron. It inspired Halloween costumes. And every review on the website, www.catholiccardgame.com, is 5 stars.
Looking back, Matt can see how God had “slowly separated me” from the securities of his day job “and showed me what was possible.” He can also admit that, without the job loss, he wouldn’t have made the leap to self-employment.
Sometimes, he realizes, God closes a door before he opens a window. “I’ve had multiple experiences in my life of holding on to things that I think I need, or expecting things to go a certain way, and the Lord has had to take it all away to show me his plan clearly.”
Matt isn’t raking in the dough, but he’s running a successful business. And best of all, he’s enjoying a lot more time with his family. He’s been away from his third baby just one day.
“I have friends who are getting promotions and bigger paychecks,” Matt said. “I could do that, but then I would be gone. I look at myself as a business owner but also a very present father. We’re choosing to live with less money but then have the freedom to both be home. That’s amazing.”
That means opting for the secondhand and leaning on family for moral support. It also means trusting that God’s generosity will never be outdone.
Once, when Lisa walked the trash out, she returned to the front door to find someone had left a meal.
“That kind of stuff happens, especially when things seem most dire,” Lisa said.
Matt’s willingness to take risks is an indication of how far he’s come. “I’ve learned to make the leap and trust that, if it’s meant to happen, it will. I used to be deathly afraid of even calling the pizza place to order a pizza.”
Courage from Christ makes all the difference for a Catholic entrepreneur.
“I have a trust in the Lord that gives me comfort, knowing that his will will be done,” Matt said. “All I can do is take one more step in the direction I think he is showing me to go.”
Christina Capecchi is a freelance writer from Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota.
Top photo: Matt and Lisa Martinusen. (Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit)