Seton Hill Students Selected as National Finalists in e-Fest Competition

A team of aspiring entrepreneurs from Seton Hill University are among 25 teams from across the nation named finalists in a student entrepreneurial competition that took place in April. 

Seton Hill students Jody Kuhns and Jayla R. Wright competed with their product - Safet-E-Sense – at e-Fest, a virtual event being hosted by the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. They are the third Seton Hill team in five years to be named finalists in the competition.

Sponsored by the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation, the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship at the University of St. Thomas, and, a non-profit online platform for entrepreneurship education, e-Fest celebrates student teams who submitted the top business pitches in a preliminary online competition. At e-Fest, student teams compete in a Pitch Slam, an Innovation Challenge and the featured event, the Schulze Entrepreneurship Challenge.  

Kuhns and Wright, who are both Business Administration majors with a specialization in Entrepreneurial Studies, created Safet-E-Sense - a smart gas leak detector applied directly to any gas appliance. It will detect the leak at its source, determine the severity of the leak, and shut off the gas before it becomes a hazard. Safet-E-Sense will also notify you so you can take necessary evacuation procedures and notify a first responder so they can reach you as fast as possible, and fix the leak as efficiently as possible.

The Seton Hill team competed against students from colleges and universities such as Johns Hopkins University, Virginia Tech, Rutgers University, George Washington University, Georgetown University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology during the three-day event that ended on April 24.

The Seton Hill team’s video submission for the competition can be found here.  

“All of us at Seton Hill are delighted that another group of Seton Hill student entrepreneurs were among the national finalists in the e-Fest competition,” said Seton Hill President Mary C. Finger. “Seton Hill has a history of encouraging entrepreneurship among its students through both the university’s strong business curriculum as well as offerings outside the classroom, including programs of the Wukich Center for Entrepreneurial Opportunities. Jody and Jayla have benefitted from outstanding faculty mentorship in developing their business plan and did an excellent job representing Seton Hill on a national stage.”

“The real-world experience that Seton Hill students gain from participating in events such as e-Fest is invaluable,” said Debasish Chakraborty, Dean of the School of Business at Seton Hill. “Jody and Jayla saw a problem, found a solution and have been working to bring that solution to market. It is exciting to see students take what they learn in the classroom and apply it to real life situations, and I congratulate Jody, Jayla and their advisor, Assistant Professor of Business Lyzona Marshall, on reaching the finals of this competition.” 

Kuhns and Wright developed the Safet-E-Sense product under the tutelage of Lyzona Marshall, who has advised all three Seton Hill finalist teams in the e-Fest competition.

"It was an honor to have yet another Seton Hill team represented in the e-Fest Business Plan competition. This represents the third time over a five-year span that we have been invited to this annual competition,” Marshall said. “This year's team is truly exceptional because they demonstrated the spirit of entrepreneurship through the ability to meet this competitive challenge while dealing with the restrictions of a pandemic."

This year’s event was a virtual one, so Kuhns, an Adult Degree Program student from Latrobe, Pa., and Wright, a traditional student from Homestead, Pa., did not get to travel to Minnesota as past teams have done. But they made the best of the situation as they presented their business plan. 

After submitting their initial plan, the team went to work connecting with engineers, other entrepreneurs, financial advisors, Seton Hill faculty and other students, and experts in the natural gas field to fine-tune their product and presentation.

“If I was ever to take a crash course in entrepreneurship and get a real perspective of what it is like to develop an idea and see it to completion, this is it,” said Kuhns, who works full-time for People’s Natural Gas in addition to her studies at Seton Hill. “There is no better feeling than being able to apply the knowledge and experience learned in the classroom and apply it directly to something on a much grander scale. Doing the groundwork, understanding the frustrations and roadblocks you face in reality, meeting the demands and pressure of deadlines and accepting that which you cannot change has helped me to see the broader perspective.”

Wright said being selected as a finalist validates that her hard work is paying off. 

“I saw this experience as an opportunity to gain more knowledge and meet new innovative people like myself,” Wright said. “I was very excited to see other ideas and generate my own from them. I think connecting with others is a great way to learn and I was glad to be able to do that during this competition.”

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