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Posts Tagged ‘online’

Small Biz interview with Little Duck Organics owner Zak Normandin

Monday, January 25th, 2010

LDO LogoToday’s KikScore interview is with Zak Normandin, owner of Little Duck Organicsa unique and tasty organic snack food for infants and toddlers – and adults too!  We came across Zak and Little Duck Organics on Twitter where Zak and team are actively promoting their yummy organic treats.  Little Duck Organics is relatively new to the online community and shares a passion for the world of small business and bringing a much needed product to the organic conscious community.  I had the pleasure of talking for awhile with Zak and sharing startup ideas and promotional concepts.  Thanks for your insight Zak and for being a KikScore customer!

1. Tell us about Little Duck Organics and who you focus on serving?

Little Duck Organics is a business that I started developing in February of 2009. My wife and I have always been a fan of all natural/organic/locally produced products, and when we went food shopping for our daughters we really didn’t see anything like that available in the baby aisle. Most of the products that were available contained added sugars, artificial flavors, and preservatives which we preferred not to feed to our kids. When we talked to other parents, they agreed that there was definitely a lack of wholesome, nutritious products available for babies. At the time, I was looking for a new venture to invest in, so I started researching what it would take to bring an organic line of baby products to market. It took me about 10 months to design our first line of products and arrange to have it manufactured and packaged. In December of 2009, we formally launched on Amazon.com and at independent grocery stores in New Hampshire.

2. How did you get started with selling online?

One of our first customers was Amazon.com. They started buying products from us in December to sell through their online grocery division. This was the first experience that we had with selling products online. At the beginning of this month (January), we set up our own online store to begin selling Little Duck snacks directly to customers through our website. This allowed us to have a little bit more control over product placement, descriptions, Etc. Overall, the experience has been great. We’re focusing now on increasing our conversion rate and finding new ways to advertise to potential customers.

3. Where will Little Duck Organics focus most of its energy in 2010?

In 2010, our goals will be to expand our retail and online distribution channels and develop the Little Duck Organics brand. One of our main focuses will be to build customer loyalty and awareness within the baby products niche. We will be working closely with the blogging community, and plan to do a lot of traveling to sample our products at retail stores. In addition, we’re planning on introducing two new products later this year that will compliment our current line of products.

4. If you had 1 lesson that you learned from your business that you could pass on to others about selling online, what would it be?

The biggest lesson that I have learned so far since we set up our online store is that you need to be very aware and organized with all of the external costs associated with selling a product through a website. Credit card fees, boxes, packing materials & shipping costs all add up with you are selling a product with a low retail price. You need to keep these things in mind and adjust your prices accordingly so that what you are offering to customers is still attractively priced.

5. As 2010 begins, what trends do you see in your business this year?

As far as trending goes in the organic baby sector, I think that there will be more of a shift from the conventional baby food companies to upgrade their product lines to incorporate more natural/organic options. Fortunately for us, Gerber will always be Gerber and Beech-Nut will always be Beech-Nut. No matter how they market their products, they will always have the same brand-association in the mind of most consumers. Our advantage is that we were able to start from ground zero and build a brand around a mindset (Creating delicious organic baby snacks with no preservatives or additives).

6. If your business could be any movie or movie character, what movie/movie character would it be and why?

I’ve always loved the movie “Click” with Adam Sandler. I really relate to his character, and although the movie does not directly relate to Little Duck Organics, I can see a lot of similarities between the story-line and our business. For anyone who has not seen the film, the main character is an architect who has the ability to fast forward his life to critical points of success. Basically, he does not want to have to go through the mundane and only wants to experience the promotions, bonuses, success Etc. I don’t want to ruin the movie for anyone who has not seen it, but at the end Sandler learns to appreciate his family, friends, and the journey of life more than he previously had. I’m making a big effort to do the same in my life and at Little Duck Organics this year. I need to enjoy the process of building the business and everything that comes along with it. We’re doing something that most people only dream of , and that in itself should be viewed as an accomplishment.

7. If Little Duck Organics could have a dream spokesperson for your company who would it be and why?

I can’t think of anyone specific off the top of my head, but it would have to be a celebrity or someone famous who has the same mindset as our company. I would prefer a mom who understands the value in feeding wholesome organic foods to their children.

8. How do the folks at Little Duck Organics let loose after a busy day working?

Although most of my time is spent building the business, It is nice to wind down after a long day at work. At home, I enjoy spending time with my wife and daughters. We love trying out new foods and traveling. In the summer, we usually go for a walk every night with our dog. My older daughter loves helping me cook, so I try to do that with her whenever I can. At three years old, she can already make a mean Alfredo sauce 🙂

9. Do you have any parting thoughts for our readers and the small business community?

Know your competition, Work your butt off, Pray for luck.  Cheers!

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What Sparks a Small Business Venture?

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

ks Pic2When starting a small business, what drives and motivates you? Is it passion for a cause or the imminent proof that there is a vacancy for a certain need? In talking with a variety of small business owners for our KikScore blog, the desires and drive to start their own venture vary as much as the different products and services they offer such as KKBB and SimplyAstro

If I were to have followed true passion in where I could be doing the daily equivalent of a comforting and true cause past time, I would have opened a No-Kill Cat shelter… however, this was a very difficult venture to get past my husband Lou, who has more of a passion for golfthan rescuing cats. Add the fact that neither of us has the building space or other means to house so many furry friends. Plus the overhead of running a shelter can be very costly and you need to ensure you have ample vet care on site and plenty of other key resources.

The general thought is you will find happiness doing what you love, it takes the ‘work’ out of ‘work’.   So what you need to find is a viable product, service, or solution that people need — or something that you can convince the general populous they can’t live without.

So how did my KikScore business partners and I end up here?

Another key element in launching a successful start up is to tap into the inner expertise of yourself to uncover a passion that had been slighted due to mundane day job activities, or inability (not to mention lack of desire) to climb the corporate ladder.   All of us at KikScore have vastly different backgrounds, yet a strong desire to not only be our own bosses eventually, but also to provide a product that is cutting edge.

Technology became a strong passion of mine, having launched my career shortly after college working for one of the most accredited entrepreneurs out there, Bob Parsons at Parsons Technology.  As technology and the Internet have migrated over time, running in stride and identifying the gaps are what caused KikScore to come to fruition.

How do I feed that need to own a cat shelter someday? Well… we do have multipe cats running about our home which reminds me I’ve saved some great lives. I frequently volunteer at the local shelter to share the warmth and experience some excess purring.DaxCosmoHeineken

Back to the original question, when starting a small business, what drives and motivates you? Share your stories and ideas with us. We’d love to showcase your small business story for the next KikScore blog!

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Posts Tagged ‘online’

Small Business Interview with Sitemakers's Geoff Jackson

Monday, January 18th, 2010

sitemakers logo

Geoff Jackson is the Social Media Strategist & Web Marketer for the UK based ecommerce solutions provider, Sitemakers.  We came across Geoff and Sitemakers on Twitter in mid-December.  Geoff and Sitemakers can bring small businesses and the Kikscore community a unique and more global perspective on ecommerce and online business trends.

1. Tell us about Sitemakers and who it focuses on serving?

Sitemakers is a UK based company specializing in ecommerce services. We work with independent retailers to help them to become successful online retailers. We have our own ecommerce platform, LiquidShop, and we provide our clients with a full service including the software they need to run their website, a full design service, ongoing support and marketing services.

2. Where will Sitemakers focus most of its energy in 2010?

We will be dividing our energy between making sure our existing clients continue to grow their businesses and seeking out new clients who can benefit from our services. Existing website owners who move to LiquidShop invariably see an increase in their online sales and we want to help more retailers enjoy this growth during these difficult trading conditions.

3. If you had one key lesson learned from your online selling experience that you could pass on to others, what is that?

Something we notice regularly is that it is existing retailers who often do best when they branch out into selling online. They know their business, they know their market and have existing relationships with suppliers. We bring the technical knowledge and the specific retailing knowledge that relates to the internet and it is this partnership that lead to a successful online shop.

4.  As the new decade begins, what do you see as main new trend in 2010?

New technology that has really caught consumers’ imagination is the smartphone. Led by the iPhone, and now followed by Google’s own Nexus, these devices have changed the way that users think of the internet and their relationship with it. An easy-to-use device with intuitive applications, large clear screen and instant on-all-the-time internet connection all lead to the expectation that information is available whenever and wherever you want it. Barcode scanning apps such as Shop Savvy mean that consumers can do their price comparison in-store just by scanning a barcode and looking up competitive prices there and then. The number of people who have bought something using these devices has started to grow, and it is expected that more than half of users will have bought something using their smartphone by the end of this year. It’s been dubbed ‘m-commerce’ – but whatever it’s called it’s coming fast in 2010.

5. Do you have any parting thoughts?

Yes. Retailers who don’t have an online strategy in place are being left behind. Christmas sales show again that it is the multichannel retailers who did best. All retailers need to adopt a strategy that lets consumers decide when, how and where they will do business with them. This may mean starting a transaction in-store and completing online, or researching online and buying instore or even on the phone. Give consumers the options they want and they will stay loyal to you.

Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below on this interview.

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Diary of a Start-Up: The Challenge to Keep Your Business Focused

Friday, January 8th, 2010

business man watching his business finances grow

As we at KikScore roll into 2010, we are proud of everything we were able to accomplish in 2009.  We launched KikScore. (See Diary of a Start-Up I)  Our blog went live. People actually visited our site!  Actually a lot more than we expected and from some interesting parts of the world.  And we really took the big plunge into social media.  Simultaneously, we are constantly working on gathering feedback from our customers and making changes and enhancements based on that feedback.

So what is the issue facing us in 2010? One word – FOCUS – or better yet the challenge to focus.

We have a lot going on at KikScore.  For example, we are in the process of developing an exciting extension to the KikScore product that we hope to launch in the next 30 days, we are fixing and enhancing the KikScore product based on customer feedback,  we are dealing with customer service issues, we are in partnership discussions and we are redesigning our marketing site at www.kikscore.com. We also have multiple tracks of product enhancements that are being prioritized and slotted in for development. And this list is not even near exhaustive of what we have going on.

So as we began 2010, we took our heads out of the weeds and said its time to climb to that proverbial mountain at 30,000 feet so we could take a broader view of KikScore, our product, all of the activity and the daily grind so we could figure out what do we need to focus on.  In all honestly, this was probably the first time in a while where we did the “focus” analysis.  The reason is as a start-up, especially an early stage one, you keep focusing on getting your product out to the market. Once the product goes live, then you are just overwhelmed to some degree with enhancements, customer and market feedback, service issues etc that can test your start-up’s ability to focus.

So this is what we have begun to do and I would recommend that if you are a start-up you may want to do something similar. Also the key is to periodically update, measure and track progress of your focus against each of these items below.

1. Goals. As a team, set your near-term and long term goals. Near term can be 30-90 days.  Long term is 1-3 years.  Keep them in a place where the entire team can review them.

2. Activities. Then create a list of the activities that flow up to the goals.  Make sure every activity can be tied to the goals otherwise that activity should be eliminated.

3. Turbo Activities. From the list of activities try to determine which activities do you get the most out of and that with all things being equal get you closer to that goal at a faster rate.  I call these Turbo Activities because they can really turbocharge you to achieve your goals faster. So for example, we at KikScore recently uncovered an approach that may really help us with customer acquisition.  Customer Acquisition is a very important near and long term goal of ours and we have various activities that help us with customer acquisition. But this method stood out and so just this week we thought lets really focus our efforts using this method and see where that gets us for acquiring more customers.

4. Regular Update. As a startup works through these turbo activities and regular activities, while also dealing with new issues that come up each day, it is critical that the team on a regular and periodic basis assess where the business is at in regards to the goals.  As the activities, objectives and goals change over time, your start-ups focus may have to adapt and be flexible.  But while I say that, you must also be careful to not have the red herrings pop up and that push you to focus on the wrong things or to lose your focus.  This is a delicate dance that each start up needs to be careful to balance so they maintain the right focus to meet their goals.

5. Team Accountability.  Each team member needs to also dedicate themselves to keeping themselves honest and other team members true to focusing the start-up.  Without team members acting as a check for themselves and other team members, a start-up runs the risk of losing that focus. One of the ways to help ensure that team members are keeping each other focused is asking a simple question during internal discussions: Do you think that activity will get us closer to accomplishing one or more of our goals?

In the end, so much of focus for a start-up can be boiled down to the 80/20 rule.  So often 20% of your activities and work, will end up getting your startup 80% of the results that you need.  Remember this when you try to keep your focus to growing your start-up!

How do you keep your business focused?

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Posts Tagged ‘online’

Will Entrepreneurs and Pizza Palors Save the U.S. Economy?

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

the hoffFinancial markets have melted down, real estate industry has a faint heart beat, and Corporate America has been laying off people by hundreds of thousands each month.  People are concerned about job security and not spending any more on expensive trips or dinners.  Not an ideal recipe for an economy or starting a business.  Or is it? 

There is a saying that you should “never underestimate the US consumer” — that is especially true for consumption of food.  More specifically, it is true for consumption of pizza.  Pizza is on my mind for two reasons.  First, we are in full swing of the football season and it seems that every weekend I’m eating pizza and watching football each Sunday. Quick tangent — I’m loving the new Domino’s Pizza.  Throw in some Chicken Kickers with ESPN, and you’ve got a great little Sunday. 

The second reason for my focus on pizza is an article that I stumbled across in the USA Today.  It discusses the rise of entrepreneurs in the form of franchisee owners, with a particular focus on CiCis Pizza franchises.  I did a little research and found that in this recession, Dominos continues to grow (just an fyi, my hope is to praise Dominos enough to get some free pizza out of this blog posting).  The pizza business has only flurished in this environment.  There is also a profile in the WSJ this past week on California Pizza Kitchen — with their founders leaving the law as defense attorneys to create a pizza chain concept. 

As the numbers are showing, Americans love pizza.  It’s cheap and tasty, it’s also relatively easy to start a pizza shop.  Take these facts and couple it with all the successful individuals looking to start a business, and we may be facing a marinara-led growth out of this recession.  Or at least a free pizza coupon for me due to my sucking up to Dominos.

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What's the Final Verdict for 2009 Holiday Onlines Sales? You May Have Sold More, But Did you Make More This Year.

Monday, January 4th, 2010

By all accounts, the 2009 holiday sales numbers seem pretty strong.  In a recent post, TechCrunch highlighted that the recent comScore assessment of online sales this year.  It touted that the revenue was up,  compared to the 2008 holiday season, 5%.  As we have alluded to in earlier posts, it not necessarily an indication of overall health of the economy, as that growth is likely coming at the expense of Bricks and Mortar shopping.  In addition to a growing acceptance of eCommerce versus fighting the crowds at the mall, 2009 included another wildcard that likely built up the number — the massive snow storm that plagued the East Coast for most of the holiday season. 

No one is going to argue that 5% growth isn’t great — most companies, in this economic environment, would love to have that type of growth.  But a valuable lesson that I learned in business school — it’s pretty complicated concept — the bottom line is a better indicator of business health than the top line.  So, though revenue may be up, what’s the profitability look like for the 2009 holiday shopping season?  Were shoppers buying low margin items with that cost a lot to resell?  It seems that may be the case.  According to comScore, this holiday shopping season saw a lot of high price ticket items (with not a lot of room for mark-up) that were the big sellers this year.  In fact, consumer electronics saw a 20% increase in sales this year, with jewelry and watches also as strong items.

So the question I pose to all online sellers is this — did your profitability rise at the same rate as your revenue this season?

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Posts Tagged ‘online’

2009 KikScore Blog Greatest Hits

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

As 2009 quickly winds down, we see “Best of 2009 Lists” pop up for everything from movies, books, songs and football games to name a few. This year being the end of a decade, we get the added benefit of a bunch of “Best of the Decade” lists.

As many of you know, we started this blog this fall. It has been a lot of fun and we have published a lot of content on many different issues relating to small business. It has also been interesting to learn on the fly as we began blogging to experiment with different styles, a variety of topics, some videos, interviews of other small businesses and stories about our KikScore product launch.  So narrowing down a list of my greatest hits of 2009 is not the easiest thing to do because we had so much fun putting together the posts on nearly a daily basis since the blog’s launch.

Well I have to make my picks and so here is my best of list for our 2009 KikScore blog posts.

1. A transparent look into a KikScore internal debate related to our product in Diary of a Tech Start-up: Disagreement Over Product Features.

2. A great practical piece on businesses picking smartphones in Choosing the Right Smartphone to Manage Your Business While You Arent in the Office.

3. A good two part list of top small business blogs in A Few Good Blogs: Our Go-To Small Business Blogs KikScore Likes Part 1 and Part 2.

4. Our first two small business interviews of Rick Shoop from Oregon Seafoods and Shiv Verma of Astro Swami.com.

5. One of my favorite’s of 2009 has to be the post on small business optimism where we drew the parallel of being optimistic with a spilled margarita titled: The Glass is Half Full Because the Other Half is On My Pants!

6. Ok, this one is a little selfish but my bonus pick for this list is the post that announced the introduction of our free KikScore service that helps online merchants demonstrate that they are trustworthy and reliable to online shoppers in: Sell Online? Signup For KikScore’s Free Beta Service.

Please tell us which post would make your top list of blogs.

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2009 Blog Recap: My Favorite Postings of the Year

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

It’s the end of the year…a time for reflection and evaluation.  In this spirit, a few of us are going to highlight some of our favorite postings from the year.  Here are my favorite five postings we’ve done (I promise they won’t just be the ones I wrote):

1.  2009 Trends in ECommerce— Typical Raj posting, very informative and a great list of tools available for ecommerce businesses.

2.  Diary of a Tech Start Up: Idea to Soft Launch — Ok.  This is my post, but I like it because it starts our Diary series and it summarizes two years of our company.

3.  Making the Grade — Kristen’s first post and a really detailed view of what KikScore’s algorithm looks at when sizing up a business.

4.  A Few Good Blogs Part 1— A great list of blogs relating to ecommerce and small business.

5.  Brett Favre and Business — Despite the December let down, a got to love a post dedicated to the Minnesota Vikings’ quarterback.

That’s my list.  Feel free to let us know if you agree/disagree.

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7 Steps to Increase Trust for More Online Sales

Monday, December 21st, 2009

Do shoppers think my store is a safe place to make an online purchase?

Nearly all small businesses face a common challenge.  This challenge is demonstrating to potential customers that your small business is credible, trustworthy and has a track record of success and delivering products and services.  This challenge is typically derived from the fact that when someone gets to a small business website, they often do not have any indication whether they can trust that small business if the shopper wants to buy from that business.

Further complicating matters for small businesses online, is the constant threat of fraud and misuse of personal and financial information that weighs heavily on online users minds.  This fear of shoppers online is real and tangible.  In fact, a  Javelin Strategy & Research study found that the fear of identify theft and online shopping in general cost retailers over $21 billion in lost sales in 2008.

A June 2009 McAfee’s study showed that 92 percent of consumers are concerned about their security when shopping on new or unknown websites. Further, that study found that 63% of shoppers will not purchase from a web site that does not display a  security policy or other indications of trustworthiness.  A 2009 Verisign Security Report also found that nearly 50% of internet users avoid buying online due to concerns that their financial information will be stolen. The report also found that 83% of internet users want assurances that their information will be secure.

These concerns are getting the attention of all types of businesses, including industry giants like Microsoft.  Scott Charney, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President of Trustworthy Computing, said at the 2009 RSA Security Conference that  “When [shoppers] visit Web sites, they don’t know if that Web site is to be trusted or not. For all of these reasons we need End-to-End Trust.”

Steps for Small Business to Demonstrate Trust

Shoppers concerns with buying online are well documented and the data supports those concerns. The good news is that there are some simple steps that all small businesses can take to demonstrate trust on their website to shoppers:

1. Management/Owner Information:  Be transparent to your shoppers. Prominently display under a Management tab the names of the owners of your business.   Make sure you add some background information on that manager/owner.  You can even include  it in story form.   This information gives shoppers comfort that there is a real person behind your business and makes it more personal.

2. Use Online Video to Virtually Introduce Yourself: A hot new trend is using online videos, through a YouTube clip, that introduces the management of your small business to shoppers and potential customers.  Here are some good tips in this prior post on using videos to build trust and credibility for your small business on your website.

3. Contact Information: Another way to build trust is to clearly and prominently display contact information including phone number and email addresses for customer service and management contacts.  By showing shoppers that they can contact you in case there are any product or service issues, you give them comfort that your business is accessible.

4. Return, Shipping, Customer Service & Data Policies: It is important that you clearly provide a list of your return, shipping, customer service and data protection policies.  It is important enough that small businesses should consider devoting a whole tab or area of their website where shoppers can visit and see what are the policies for your business.  Again the goal here should be the more information about these policies the better.

5. Trust and Validation Marks/Seals:  The 2009 Verisign Security Report found that 86% of online shoppers feel more confident about entering personal and financial information with sites that have some type of security indicators, such as trustmarks.   A few seals provides much of the information that is covered in this post through just one seal that resides on an online store’s website. Look for those seals.

6. Customer Feedback: Show that you can be trusted and also let people know your track record with customers by publishing comments about your product, service and business.

7. Actively Engage Customers: Use social media sites and tools like Twitter, Facebook and a blog to profile your business, create a tangible brand and personality and also engage customers.  These conversations with your customer and the community give shoppers a more complete, in-depth and intimate look into your business.  These conversations and having them like we have covered in previously posts via Twitter and your blog only make your business more credible.

Also one of our favorites, Inc Magazine has a good article on this same topic of online trust and you should check that out too.

If you start using these tips, your business and your website will go a long way to clearly demonstrating trust to shoppers and thereby helping you increase sales.

Please tell us in the comments section below what you look for before you buy online.

*Image from Bill Mullins Blog.

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Forget the Store, Lets Just Buy That Online!

Friday, December 18th, 2009

Bad Santa

As the picture above from the classic Christmas movie Bad Santa shows, the holiday season is generally a time to flock to the mall.  Many of us try so hard to overcome the crowds, the aggressive shoppers and the mall traffic to make sure we have all of our gifts for friends, families and co-workers.

My wife and I began this season spending a lot of time shopping at various stores.  A lot of the places were actually home improvement, department and electronics stores like Home Depot, Best Buy and Sears.   Much of the shopping focused around our never ending condo renovation.  And I am not the only person shopping from Kikscore. Others spent time shopping for items like coats for their brother!

Throughout much of our shopping, I kept saying to my wife, “Lets go get some Red Lobster because we can buy these items online.  Its easier, we can get more selection and we can pick it out while we are relaxing on our couch.”  One added bonus of not buying in the store is when you purchase online it gets delivered. Therefore I am saved from breaking my back trying to load the purchases into the Black Dragon (our 2000 Black Honda Accord – @157,000 miles).

Buying online is just so much easier than having to fight through the crowds to get what you want.  Its even better because then I do not have to face the challenge of my pregnant wife being able to outwalk me!

This season we are buying online much more because:

1) Buying online is easy;

2) Buying online is convenient;

3) Buying online allows you to shop at multiple sites from the comfort of your home;

4) Buying online allows you to do real time price and product functionality lookups and comparisons;

5) Buying online gets your products delivered to your doorstep; and

6) Buying online allows you to avoid the hyped H1NI germs, frantic shoppers, bad traffic and interesting characters that roam the shopping malls

Now buying online is not without its issues too. For example, we recently ordered a large sink for our bathroom.  Well the supplier of the sink decided to ship it via ground transportation.  What do you think happened when the sink had to make its way from St. Louis to Washington DC in the back of a truck along beautiful and scenic I-70?  Well that sink was delivered 3 separate times and each time there was a large crack in it forcing us to return the sink.  So watch out and make sure you use these 5 tips for safe online shopping when you buy online.

Let us know if you are avoiding the crowds and buying more online.

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