Prosperity by Ziiva is a full-featured LMS that can serve companies who need to train as few as 50 people or as many as 50,000.
Developer of Prosperity by Ziiva, a Learning Management System (LMS) that provides a robust, fully customizable e-learning platform for even the most complex industries.
Susan Reuter always knew she’d be an entrepreneur.
The majority of her family members are entrepreneurs; some are business owners while others are independents. It’s a family trait based on the appreciation of independence and uniqueness, combined with a passion for critical thinking and problem solving.
As a child, she’d dream up products and strategize how she could sell them. She and her father had a game – the “million-dollar idea” game. Anytime one of them would have a solution to a problem not yet solved they would call the other and share it. And, being who they were, would run through the pros and cons, sometimes even brutally. It was great fun for them both.
But before she was ready to launch her own company in 1998, she got a degree in physics and spent 14 years working as an automation software engineer for General Electric in Roanoke.
GE went through a long running downturn, and while Reuter was fairly safe in her job, she and co-worker Mike Zinni decided if they were going to put up with that kind of stress they might as well take fate into their own hands and launch their own business. They quickly decided to open their own software project shop.
Early on, the partners were hired to do several freelance projects for GE. But they soon realized they had different goals and strategies.
While Zinni enjoyed working independently, Reuter wanted to develop a product. She was confident that developing one would generate more revenue and provide a base for a strong, growing company.
After creating a Learning Management System (LMS) for a customer and hearing a lot of buzz about the growing potential for E-learning, Reuter decided her product had found her. She built a team to create Prosperity, an LMS that was scalable and configurable to meet the needs of customers in industries ranging from aviation and manufacturing to healthcare and financial services.
Roadblocks along the way
Starting a business always poses challenges, and Reuter’s experience wasn’t any different.
In addition to headbutting with her now former partner, the first name she picked for her company ran into a copyright buzz saw.
Determined never to face that issue again, she decided to make up a name that wouldn’t cause a similar conflict. A fan of horses and mythology, she studied both for name options. Many like Pegasus or Zeus were already taken. Others like Bucephalus, the name of Alexander the Great’s mighty stallion, sounded more like a virus than the name of a successful business.
In the end, she crafted Ziiva, a name similar to the Hebrew word Ziva, which means blessing or light. She chose a horse for the company’s symbol, which is also a symbol for Prosperity, and thus named her LMS Prosperity.
“It all fits together,” Reuter said. “For me, prosperity is not just about making money. It’s about making good in the world in a significant way.”
Lifted by helping hands
Early on, Reuter benefited from working with Lisa Ison at The New Century Venture Center, a former award-winning business incubator in the Roanoke region. She also received additional helpful advice from Meridium founder Bonz Hart and from Elaine Cayton, who was then vice president at ITT Corporation. “I’m a firm believer in learning from everyone and everything.”
She also developed new skills.
For me prosperity is not just about making money. It’s about making good in the world in a significant way.”
While she could write most of the code Prosperity needed, she eventually had to learn how to delegate that work and take on a supervisory role.
“It’s still an ongoing challenge,” she said. Especially with the company poised to move to the next stage of growth.
“I want the company to be successful financially, but I want to create a meaningful work environment and make the business more integrated with the community. Things here are not typical. Individuals have a lot of freedom in terms of their work hours and dress code. They also have a lot of freedom in terms of their actual work.”
While Reuter stays focused on Ziiva’s technical side, Dan Wheeler, the company’s vice president, puts his energy into sales and marketing.
In the past decade, Ziiva has served several hundred clients, Wheeler said.
The company has created systems for Fortune 500 clients, startup ventures and everything in between. Ziiva also works with state and local governments, nonprofits and associations.
Those clients range from a commercial bakery that makes hamburger buns for major restaurant chains to a religious organization that trains missionaries around the world.
When a helicopter service that provides emergency medical care realized it was wasting time granting interviews to potential hires only to learn the interviewees lacked the necessary knowledge, Ziiva customized Prosperity to deliver an applicant exam to gauge basic abilities before prospective employees are cleared for the interview process.
For a client that creates safe havens for children and families through adoption and foster care, Ziiva modified Prosperity so the organization could offer employee and public training as well as add events and feature them on the student calendar. The system also allows students to search for and select events from the calendar and then be directly connected to the Eventbrite registration page.
Wheeler’s goal is to make sure everyone from large, complex businesses to small non-profits understand Prosperity can be customized to meet their needs.
“We start by determining the solution you need,” he said. “Then we tailor the system to deliver that. Most customers come in with very specific things that they want, that are unique to their business, and we can provide a system to serve that.”
As an entrepreneur, Reuter and her team are committed to creating an LMS that can help any kind of business thrive.
“We offer more than a tailor-fit Learning Management System,” Reuter said. “We are always seeking ways to enrich your company culture and improve the online learning experience that you offer to your students, employees, customers, or users.”