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Plano business ranks on list of fast-growing Aggie-owned businesses
When Josh Paine took on duties as CFO for online travel agency CheapCaribbean.com in August 2007, the United States was just slipping into the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
Despite the stinging blow to the economy, Paine led the charge to grow the company, and grow it did: In 2009, revenue grew by 185 percent, profitability increased 640 percent and the employee base ballooned by nearly 100 percent.
Today, Paine is CEO, and the Plano-based company serves more than 400,000 customers annually, experiencing a year-to-date 32 percent increase in revenue for 2012.
"People were going to continue to travel [following the financial crisis]; they just weren't going to pay too much," Paine said. "As a customer advocate, we've always been focused on delivering exceptional value for our customers. It was actually a really good time to be CheapCaribbean.com."
This year, Paine's alma mater took notice, ranking his business 99th on the Aggie 100, a list of the fastest-growing businesses owned by Texas A&M graduates. Paine accepted the award Friday at the eighth-annual Aggie 100 luncheon, held on the Texas A&M campus in College Station.
"[The award] is to recognize fast-growing Aggie-led and owned and operated businesses, but there's also a significant educational component to it," said Dr. Richard Lester, executive director of the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship at Texas A&M, speaking the day before the luncheon. "We'll probably have about 50 or 60 of the entrepreneurs who will be talking to student clubs, and we figure that the Aggie 100 will touch somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500 students."
Paine got involved with CheapCaribbean.com as a member of its board of directors in 2005. He joined as CFO after a five-year stint as vice president of operations for JetPay Merchant Services, a Texas-based credit card processing company.
In 2007, Paine moved to Plano, but had to move to CheapCaribbean's then-home state of Pennsylvania to take the CFO job later that year. Under Paine's direction, the company moved to Plano in March 2011.
"The talent pool is readily available for us," he said of the new location. "The caliber of individuals is exceptional. The work ethic of individuals is exceptional. For us, we've been able to create kind of a young, entrepreneurial kind of environment, even within a company that's 12 years old and has 300 employees. I'm very, very fond of the Plano community and looking to continue to grow it."
While growing any business in a slowing economy is a challenging affair, Paine said the company's structure as an efficient, online-only company has only been advantageous to continued growth.
"We got very serious with our cost-cutting strategies, but again, we're set up as an online, efficient company," he said. "If you deliver exceptional value during poor economic times, you can still outperform your competition."
Paine received a bachelor's degree in accounting from Texas A&M in 1999 and earned a master's degree in finance at the same school in 2000.
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