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Change, of Course

This travel company triumphed over tough times by blazing a brand-new business trail.

You probably wouldn't recognize today's iExplore Inc. from the business plan George Deeb wrote in 1999. With a radically new business model, this Chicago-based adventure-travel company has grown to under $10 million in annual sales.

When Deeb founded iExplore, the online agency sold tours for other companies. But when times got tough after 9/11, iExplore's revenue vanished, and most online agencies turned off the lights. Deeb, however, boldly changed course, offering his own tours and selling advertising on his website.

"We're promoting other travel businesses, so there are opportunities to lose potential clients," says Deeb, 36. But he is strict about the site's ads (no animation or pop-ups), and isn't worried about losing his brand image or his core customers. Plus, "The value of a click from advertising is two to three times more valuable than trying to convert that user into a travel transaction for iExplore."

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This article was originally published in the February 2006 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Change, of Course.

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