LaunchNET Boosts Alumni Businesses
LaunchNET Kent State helps students, faculty, staff and alumni transform ideas into viable businesses, innovative collaborations and successful projects. In May 2023, with support from the Burton D. Morgan Foundation, LaunchNET was able to extend its microgrant programming to provide financial resources for alumni business owners. The organization offered grants of $500-$3,000 to Kent State alumni entrepreneurs with Ohio-based, for-profit businesses that had annual gross revenues of $200,000 or less.
One of the grant recipients Tiffany Roper, ’07, M.Ed. ’12, is a two-time alumna and the owner of Snap & Flair. During the stay-at-home orders at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Roper realized that something was missing from her life. Her passion, which had always been a hallmark of her personality, just wasn’t there, and it got her thinking about what she wanted to do and who she wanted to help. Out of that quiet introspection, her entrepreneurial spirit was ignited.
She founded her first business, Eat Speak Love in 2020. This nonprofit aimed to amplify the voices of women and minorities in business. Since then, Roper has created Oh Snap Photo Lab, a mobile photo booth rental business; Thrift Theory & Style, a personal styling company; and Tiffany Roper: On The Mic!, a speaking engagement business. She and her husband Kevin also own 1st Time Shine, a mobile detailing company.
“When you’re passionate, competent and go full-force with everything you love, people can glean off your energy,” Roper said. “The last three years of my life have been the best for myself personally, as a leader and as a woman in business. It’s been nothing short of amazing.”
Another grant recipient, Evan Laisure, ’17, is the owner of The Pastimes, an in-house screen printing shop that creates wholesale apparel and products for the outdoor brand - The Pastimes.com. Since graduating from Kent State with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design, he’s put his skills to work, monetizing his passion for art and evolving his businesses to meet life’s demands.
Laisure started with freelance work and soon began selling products like T-shirts and mugs. Selling turned into producing, and Laisure is proud to have created an eco-friendly printshop that only uses water-based inks and is taking steps to print exclusively on cotton materials for not just their brand, but wholesale clients as well. He sells these items at shows throughout the Midwest. When participating in local shows, he also brings his mobile food trailer where customers can build their own bagel sandwiches.
In the next year, Laisure hopes to have a brick-and-mortar location with two units to house the print shop and cafe. He focuses on moving forward in his work and career and pushes to achieve a high caliber of success that he learned during his time at Kent State from professors like Aofie Mooney, David Roll and Christopher Darling.
“The professors sitting across from me in every class and every studio were top-shelf. They were titans in the industry, and that was super inspiring,” said Laisure. “I wasn’t comparing myself to classmates because we were all comparing ourselves to them.”
Through this program, LaunchNET has helped support seven alumni, including Roper and Laisure, as they work to build and expand their businesses.