According to the 2012 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report, 69% of businesses in the U.S. are founded by entrepreneurs who are trying to respond either to a personal need or a need they know to be unmet. Back in 2000, Sharon Ourian, founder and CEO of CyberActive, began her journey in a similar fashion. Twenty years later and now a successful businesswoman, Ourian’s drive to meet the unmet needs of others has led her to save dozens of companies from bankruptcy during this past year’s Covid-19 pandemic.
CyberActive had its beginnings when Ourian was still a university student and she realized that not a single company offered traffic school classes online. At the time, Ourian had been leading a team of software developers as the Executive Vice President of TestMasters, a test preparation company. With the help of these developers, she embarked on the creation of a software that could host online traffic courses and track student data as well.
“Back in 2000, the world was still in the rudimentary years of e-commerce,” says Ourian. “Seeing an underdeveloped platform, I knew a lucrative venture was on the horizon. It was then I decided to start my own business and build CyberActive.”
Ourian was simply filling a gap in an industry she understood well. What has set her company apart from the 90% of startups that fail within their first year, however, is that CyberActive has found itself at the forefront of saving many companies from bankruptcy amidst the crippling impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
After establishing its online courses, CyberActive went on to gain the necessary approval to become the first online driver education platform in California for teenagers seeking their first license. The business model Ourian had conceptualized proved to be effective both for consumers who preferred taking the courses at home and for the regulatory bodies that sanctioned the courses (such as the Department of Motor Vehicles). The success of these pioneering efforts was proved further when, led by Texas and California, more American states began adopting the online model for both their traffic schools and drivers ed programs.
During 2020’s Covid-19 pandemic, many traditional businesses, driving schools included, were hit hard by recurrent lockdowns. As these companies were unable to offer their services face to face, it became a great challenge to keep operations running, and some businesses were forced to close for good. For driving schools in particular, adapting to an online setup seemed an intimidating and lengthy process. Typically, schools are required to apply for program approval before offering online courses, which can take anywhere from six to 12 months (not to mention the costly and time-consuming process of building an online learning management system).
Thankfully, Ourian already had gone through the painstaking process of having her online courses approved for use either as a supplement or substitute for live classes. Since CyberActive’s traffic school courses had already been approved in over 25 states, Ourian was able to set up partnerships with hundreds of high schools and driver’s education programs, helping them survive the pandemic by continuing their programs online.
Furthermore, Ourian has created a “white label” industry, which allows companies to offer her programs under their own brand. In effect, once a student of at a CyberActive partner institution visits the institution’s site, they can click on a link that will direct them to a course that is in complete alignment with the operation’s brand. Students then take the entire course on what appears to be the partner institution’s site, so the student will never even know that a transition has occurred.
“When the pandemic hit, our team created an emergency rescue plan,” says Ourian. “We contacted the driving schools and let them know about our white label solution. We allowed them to start using the system we developed with no fees, at least until the lockdowns were lifted and classrooms could return to hosting students face to face.” Even as the lockdowns were lifted, many of the schools that migrated to the CyberActive online platform reported a larger student enrollment and a higher net profit.
Ourian’s most enduring passion has always been increasing the accessibility and affordability of education. The best part, for her, is being able to uplift fellow entrepreneurs while doing what she loves. “When you do something you love, you are not working,” she says. “And when doing something you love helps other people in some way, or solves their problem so they don’t have to, you feel even better because you have actually helped somebody.”
Moving forward, Ourian hopes to assist even more businesses with CyberActive. Her team has been inundated with brick and mortar driving schools and school districts that want to use CyberActive’s white label software to offer their own online driving courses. Ourian has accommodated this new demand by employing a larger staff. She couldn’t be happier.