A Day in the Life: LaunchNET program manager uses opera background to help students, alumni, faculty start businesses

Caite Lenahan, program manager of LaunchNET, said one of her main goals is to reach all students, alumni and faculty “because entrepreneurship, at least in our viewpoint, is for everyone.”


Courtesy of Caite Lenahan

Some of the other LaunchNET staff from the other NEO LaunchNET schools including staff from Case Western Reserve University, Kent State University, Lorain County Community College and John Carroll University.

Caite Lenahan, program manager of LaunchNET, uses a unique work background of being an opera singer to help students, alumni and faculty accomplish their goals of starting businesses. 

The LaunchNET program, founded in 2012, is a program funded by the Burton D. Morgan Foundation.  

The Foundation provides free and confidential business coaching, and additional programming such as networking events, competitions, contests, funding opportunities, entrepreneurship education and more. BW is one of five schools that participate in this program in Northeast Ohio. 

Before her time working for the LaunchNET program, Lenahan originally graduated with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in music and opera performance. Lenahan said that she then worked as a professional opera singer “for just over a decade prior to Covid.”  

“I got contracts, was paid for my singing work, did weddings, funerals, different shows, small gigs here and there and was effectively an opera singer who ran her own business as herself, but never put the title ‘entrepreneurship’ behind [it],” Lenahan said.  

When Covid-19 shut down the industry, Lenahan went back to school and graduated from BW with a master’s in arts and education leadership in higher education. Her plan was to pivot by working in a conservatory of music or a school of music. 

As Lenahan was approaching graduation last year, a position to work with LaunchNET part-time was available. 

“I applied for it because it was a program manager position to oversee a program to work with students. … And through the interview process and working, just knowing that I would want to work with students, I found that it was the perfect fit of a role for me,” Lenahan said. 

Lenahan started her full-time position as Program Manager last May. Before that she was only a part time employee for the month of April.  

The Launch-Net program is currently in the basement of the Union, but it is in the process of moving to the Center for Innovation and Growth for a grand re-opening this coming fall. 

Lenahan said that the program is separate from the School of Business because entrepreneurship includes skills that are more than just business skills like “filing taxes and having to deal with marketing.” 

Students, alumni and faculty do not need to have any prior business knowledge to contract LaunchNET’s services. 

“Part of what we offer through our programmatic services are opportunities to learn that skill set that you can apply to the creative piece, the thinking piece and ideation piece that really make up an entrepreneur with the entrepreneurial mindset,” Lenahan said. 

Even Lenahan said that she had to supplement her knowledge about entrepreneurship when she started this job. 

“With my degrees I was never taught how to file taxes. … But I was taught, or I took time to research and learned, what those pieces and parts looked like to make myself successful in the work I did. And that’s the same thing that I try to do with our students and with our alumni and faculty and staff here on campus,” Lenahan said. 

Lenahan said that the most rewarding aspect of the job is working with students about what they are the most passionate about. 

“Working with young adults, … watching them grow through this really integral time to get ready to enter the real world, I think is something that’s special and not a lot of people get to watch actually occur,” Lenahan said. 

Lenahan doesn’t have a typical routine because of the nature of her job, but some of her responsibilities include client meetings, class visits, sports orientation, meetings with partners at the university regarding things like collaboration events and coming up with new entrepreneurship programming. 

When Lenahan does have client meetings, she will normally have one to three 30 to 45-minute meetings a day. She does offer both in person and virtual options for students who are not able to meet at the CIG between classes.  

“Because LaunchNET is a user driven program, clients can request meetings anytime. [The students could have meetings] be once a week to once a year, whatever makes sense for them and their business plan,” Lenahan said. 

Jason Heisler, a sophomore public relations major with minors in both marketing and social media production and student intern for LaunchNET since October of this year, works closely with Lenahan. 

Heisler mainly works on the public relations for LaunchNET where he comes up with ideas on how to raise awareness of the program for those who qualify for it. 

“We are here to support entrepreneurs in our student body and our faculty and our graduate students and, you know, alumni and the list goes on,” Heisler said. 

Some of Heisler’s other responsibilities include posting on social media, helping with events and creating the LaunchNET newsletter.  

The current project Heisler is working on is a LaunchNET rubber duck scavenger hunt that spans the campus. Heisler has hidden 50 rubber ducks with the LaunchNET brand around campus. The three students that find the most ducks by April 26 get LaunchNET merch and a $30 Target gift card, $20 bookstore gift card and a $10 Starbucks gift card. 

When referring to working with Lenehan Heisler said that he “couldn’t have asked for a better mentor.” 

“LaunchNET has been one of the defining moments of my sophomore year by far and I think most if not all of that comes from Caite’s guidance,” Heisler said. “She’s hands off for some of the things but she’s still very much there.” 

Two student groups from the LaunchNET program, CardPool Trade (Robey Bolen, Connor Foody and Lucas Simonetti) and BugNode (Samuel Paredes), meet with Caite Lenahan before they went to the regional competition for ideaLabs in Akron, OH. Photo courtesy of Caite Lenahan.

Lenahan also works closely with her boss, Lori Long, the professor and chair of management and entrepreneurship. Long’s job is to promote entrepreneurial thinking and action across the campus. 

Long teaches classes, works with faculty and staff on innovative projects, works on entrepreneurship curriculum and co-curricular activities.  

Long said that Lenahan was an “unusual candidate” for Program Manager and that the other LaunchNET programs at the other four schools have former entrepreneurs in the same job that Lenahan is in.  

“We were attracted to Caite’s background because … the biggest challenge is getting [students] in the door. And so, her background with the LHE program really built that foundation of how to engage students and so forth,” Long said. 

Long continued to say that her experience in marketing herself as an opera singer also played a part in deciding on choosing her for the position. 

Long said she is someone Lenahan can come to when Lenahan has questions and be a “sounding board” with students. 

“I enjoy working with Caite. She has boundless energy. She’s very creative. She’s very student focused. She cares about the students that she works with and that makes a huge difference,” Long said.