At first glance, discount travel site Cheap Travel Hunter looks like it could be any other online travel agency on the Web.
Here’s how it’s different: Cheap Travel Hunter’s CEO isn’t old enough to drink. He’s just barely old enough to vote.
Arya Bina started the company back in 2010, back when he was 16.
Today, he’s 19, and Cheap Travel Hunter is doing well enough to employ 20 people in the US and abroad.
According to Web metrics site SimilarWeb, Cheap Travel Hunter is the 2,412nd largest site in its category. SimilarWeb estimates that 75,000 people visited the site in February. Travel sites usually convert at least 1% of their visitors into paying customers. So you can figure Cheap Travel Hunter is selling tickets to several hundred people every month.
It’s doing totally OK.
And that’s more than impressive work for a teenager, right?
We caught up with Arya over email and asked him how he got his start (he had to be convinced), what his friends think of his company (they don’t really get it), and what advice he has for other teenagers as they enter corporate America (get ready to work for someone else).
Here’s that exchange.
Business Insider: How’d you get started?
Arya Bina: I got started back in May of 2010 when I was 16 years old when a friend of mine convinced me that it would be a good idea to start a travel agency, I was reluctant to start the venture but he convinced me. We got our start with a build it yourself website, a phone, and an ad in the local paper. After some time I came across the concept of internet marketing, that’s when I decided to rethink our business model completely and invest heavily (both financially and time wise) into the concept of being a completely online travel agency (OTA). Unfortunately my partner did not feel the same way about my expansionary mindset and we decided to part ways shortly after I began executing and implementing the ideas of the new business model. Since then the business has grown to employ over 20 people both here in the U.S.A. and overseas.
Business Insider: What do other teens think of your business? Adults?
Arya Bina: I can say that many of the people I interact with do not know what I do for my income, I try not to show off, but my close friends which I am very open with are very supportive of my business and I’d like to think they are proud of my accomplishments. However most teens do not have an entrepreneurial mind-set and lack some of the general financial knowledge to comprehend the scope of an operation such as mine. As for the adults around me I am very lucky to be surrounded by people who live and breathe business, they are very supportive and I can always rely on them when I need consultation.
Business Insider:What have been your biggest mistakes?
Arya Bina: 1. Hiring the wrong people. 2. Trying to micro-manage. 3. Giving up on new ideas or new concepts too easily. (Which is easy to do when most investments are money-pits when you first start) 4. Focusing on money.
Business Insider: What were some lessons you learned?
Arya Bina: Probably one of the most important lessons that I’ve learned, which is hard for many people to understand (just as it was hard for me to come to terms with!) is that business is not all about the income statement. A lot of times it’s better to set up a system that is a little more costly but is scale-able in the long run. A lot of small business find ways to pinch pennies in their operations but then those methods are not scale-able on a larger scale and that’s how they get stuck being a small business.
Business Insider: What surprised you the most about the world of business?
Arya Bina: I have always been surrounded by people who have owned their own business, large and small so there were not many big surprises, but two things which I have noticed is that the mentality of small business owners, and those of large corporations differs 100% completely. The second is that things in business change extremely fast, and it’s not enough anymore to just try and keep up, if you want to compete and grow you must be not one but two steps ahead of the competition in your industry especially one as competitive as travel.
Business Insider: Have you had much success? Can you quantify it?
Arya Bina: I believe I’ve had a lot of success. I measure success by the exceptional team of employees I’ve built, as well as the growth the business has experienced in customer base, and revenue. We are currently on track to control a respectable amount of the discount travel booking market in the next 5 years God willing.
Business Insider: What can teens expect from corporate America?
Arya Bina: Teens can expect corporate America to turn them into employees, working for the best interests of their superiors, the board of directors, and shareholders. Ultimately everybody works for somebody, even the CEO of the largest company in the world is still held accountable for his job. It’s not a bad thing working for someone else, but if you have other ideas don’t be afraid to invest heavily in yourself and go for your dreams.
Statistically most of us will end up working in some type of organisation. Even still teens should aim to be the best that they can be in their field of interest, and aim for the top, focusing on constantly moving up the chain of command throughout their careers. It’s never a good idea to settle!
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