Tag Archives: craft shows

Crafty Business #4 – At the Show

So you’re sitting in your gorgeous new booth, watching customers walk buy.  Some of them glance your way, some stop and browse, some keep on going without stopping…it can be disheartening.  Or as I’ve heard teenagers call it – a BUZZKILL.

Or maybe you’re so busy you’re wondering why you didn’t ask someone to come help, you’re making sales left and right, maybe you’re starting to run low on stock…it can be exhilarating.  Or as I’ve heard teenagers call it – a BANGIN’ TIME.

Either way, you better be ON YOUR GAME.  And this was something I touched on in a previous post.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve walked by a booth where the artist was frowning, on their phone, arms crossed, general body language telling me they were not having a good time and they were going to let you know it.  And I can equally tell you how many times people have come by our booth because we were having a good time and they wanted to know what all the fuss was about.

Now that crowd didn’t necessarily lead to sales, but the minute a customer walks into your booth, a sale is made – either on the spot or in the future – a customer will remember you based on your attitude.  Not only that, I can’t tell you how many times show organizers scoped us out and then invited us to future shows.  So a great way to find out about potential show opportunities is by having your GAME ON while at your show.

Naomi Dunford of Ittybiz gives FANTASTIC advice on selling to your audience.  I have subscribed to several of her marketing courses and each time, I’ve learned invaluable strategies for making a show work for Book-Inz.  I strongly suggest you find a small crafty biz consultant that connects with you and follow them.  There are several in the industry, not necessarily wholly geared towards crafty businesses, but a lot of their advice and direction can be used in our craft business.  Tara Gentile of Scoutie Girl is another one.

Another aspect of being at the show is keeping track of sales.  Everyone has a system that works for them, whether it’s a spreadsheet, an inventory tracking system, or just writing things down on a piece of paper as items are sold.  But there’s more to a crafty business than just what you sold.  Some of the things you need to remember is that the fee you pay for your booth is tax deductible, BUT, it’s also a cost associated with your show.  Many times you’ll hear another crafter say, “I made my booth fee.”  That just means they’ve sold enough to make back the money they spent.  They’re not profiting, but neither are they at a loss.  I really don’t have a tracking system I can recommend because Book-Inz is pretty simple.  I only bring X amount of each Book-Inz and then take inventory when I get home.  Easy peasy.

I have been asked about show tracking and what I can tell you is that there are several types out there.  Handmadeology.com has a Show Sales Tracking Spreadsheet.  I’ve never used it, but as with everything else I’ve gotten from that website, I imagine it’s not only good, but worth the money. Sometimes, making your own spreadsheet works for the interim,  because no one knows the details of your business better than you do and a one size fits all system may not address everything you need/want to track.

At a minimum, you should be tracking your sales, the booth fee, meals, travel (mileage), lodging, cost of goods (I base this on raw costs), and other expenses (such as marketing, printing, etc).  Just remember that while it may seem like you’re operating at a loss now, once tax time rolls around and you’re deducting all those expenses, you might come out ahead.  And it generally takes a couple  years to break a profit out of all those expenses.  Don’t despair.  You just might be the one who has the next big thing and no worries for anything ever again!

All of this to say – there’s still work to be done!  Craft shows are not just a set up your tent and sell your wares kind of thing.  But I also want you to know that while it’s hard work getting out there and putting a face to your crafts, it’s also just so much fun getting out there and meeting people who are as in love with what you create as you are.  It gives me such a thrill when strangers come into our booth and tell me how much they love their Book-Inz!  It means I’m not the only weirdo in the world who thinks Book-Inz are awesome! 🙂

And it will mean someone else finds your creations just as valuable and amazing as you do.  That’s a feeling no one can duplicate.

Until next time, Keep Calm and Read On!  And if you have a question, please feel free to email me at book-inz@att.net, I am happy to answer your questions!

And if you’re curious about Book-Inz, click here to view our latest offerings!

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Crafty Business: Craft Shows Week #4 – Booth Set Up

Setting Up Your Booth

So you’ve scheduled your first craft show and you’re ready to go, right?  Have you given any thought to how you will present your creations in their best light?  Some tables, a few tablecloths, some price signs, and poof – you have a booth, right?  Well, not so fast.

Let me tell you, it is NOT easy.  Our booth is a work in progress.   We started with two tables and a display my brother-in-law made from my vision.  (He’s really good at that, by the way, so if you’re in the area and need an intro…) And it worked.  For a good long time it worked.  It was a folding wooden display with hooks to hang Book-Inz from the metal rings.

And then a customer told me about magnetic paint.  Kind of like chalkboard paint, but magnetic.  Six coats later, I had a magnetic display.  Which, had I thought it out, made perfect sense!  How better to display the magnetic properties of Book-Inz than on a magnetic display?

And then I needed more display space for all the new Book-Inz I was making.  Enter two black picture frames with metal flashing. That worked even better! So now I’ve got a mishmash of displays, two MORE tables…

And then I saw a vendor with raised tables and discovered bed risers.  You know, those large plastic upside down cups that lift your bed height?  Yep.  Four sets of risers later, we had an even better display.

Do you see where I’m going with this?  Because it didn’t stop there!  While trolling Pinterest (a fantastic website if you haven’t been), I saw a diagram showing how to make a frame for canopy walls and away I went!

So I went from this:

To this:

 

And whatever your display, you’ve got to make it fit into whatever amount of space the show organizers are offering.  Sometimes it will be 10×10 (typically the standard), other times it will be 8×8, and then other times it will fall somewhere in between.  I’ve done shows where the space was 20×10, 6×8, 5×8, and even 6×6. And that’s another consideration to have when deciding how to set up your space. Is it configurable to fit ANY size space or will I have to start all over with a different display each time I get a new booth size? Of course, you could also only apply for shows that have the space you want, but then you’re limiting your customer base.  And not only do you have to make sure it’s configurable, you also have to make sure it’s not so unwieldy that you can’t set it up and tear it down in less than thirty minutes.  Well, you could take an hour if you wanted, but why would you?  Our old set up had us torn down and in the car within thirty minutes.  Our new set up takes a little bit longer, but also looks so much better and gives more space for customers to browse.  Ask yourself these questions: How many dollies will you need to load/unload?  Can you set up and tear down by yourself if you had to?  Will you have help available if you are by yourself?

I want to stress that your booth does not have to be perfect from day one.  Just like with your creativity, inspiration will come from the most random places.  Your booth set up is going to be ever evolving.  At least until you have discovered that sweet spot of display, time, and space. Because having multiple configurations is a headache, I’ve been there.  Some of the best advice I never took was to set up your display at the house the first time and time yourself, work out the tweaks, catch those little things you might not have noticed while constructing it from pieces.  In your mind, you’ve probably got a wonderful vision of what it looks like – real life isn’t always the same.  And did you catch where I mentioned I never took this advice?  Don’t make my mistake.

And look at others’ booths while you’re out and about, scoping your next craft fair application, there are also a few other ways to get inspiration for your booth.  One of the best I’ve found is Show Me Your Booths, a Flickr site.  There are actually a few craft show booth sites on Flickr.  Meylah.com has a great ideas post about your booth set up.

And all the materials you use for building this fantastic display are deductible expenses on your income tax.  How’s that for nifty?  Now I’m not telling you to go out and build the most expensive thing you can find to have a big deduction, it doesn’t work quite like that.  I’m just saying that you need to save those receipts from Home Depot and Lowe’s for your tax return…

So go find inspiration, get some supplies, and get to building!  Until next time, Keep Calm and Read On!

PS – I have had several readers contact me with further questions.  I am more than happy to answer them through email at book-inz@att.net. And I will also post your questions anonymously with my answers – if you’ve got the question, chances are someone else does, too!

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Craft Shows Week#3 – Finding the Shows

A couple weeks’ ago I started a Wednesday series on the various topics related to getting into the craft show circuit.  I’m not sure how many posts this will entail, but I assure you at the end of this series you will have the rudimentary knowledge you’ll need to get yourself out in front of the buying public as a professional crafter.

Finding the Shows

Since you already know I’m from Texas, I’ll also tell you I’m in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.  And the SINGLE GREATEST RESOURCE for DFW craft shows is just that: DFWCraftShows.com. I’ve often wondered if other large metropolitan areas have this same kind of resource (if they do, let me know and I’ll be happy to include them in the reference list).  Pretty much every craft show in town advertises on DFW Craft Shows.  They include the links to the application and the websites for more information.

There are a few national websites for craft shows yet the thing you have to remember is that no one website will give you all the information you are seeking.  I use Funky Finds and Craftlister for out of town shows.  Sometimes I’ll find local shows not listed on DFW Craft Shows, too.  Word of mouth and previous craft shows you’ve visited yourself are also ways to find shows.  And in a nod to online sellers, if you’re a member of an etsy team, your team mates will often have done shows themselves and will be great resources.  I’ve found several shows this way.

The only problem with finding shows is that you don’t really know if it’s your niche market or not.  Book-Inz does really well at church and school functions.  It’s not marketing per se, it’s just logical – books and bookmarks go together! However, there are some shows that are duds. And I don’t mean that in a mean way, it’s just how it goes.  Organizing a craft show is really hard work.  Weather, location, advertising, whatever else is going on that weekend…all those factors can combine to become a perfect storm of a mediocre show.  But there’s really no such thing.  Because every show you participate in is an opportunity to market your crafts.  It may not be what they’re looking for today, but make sure you sell to them just the same.  They’ll take your card and look for you later.  This, by the way, is a great time to mention business cards and other marketing tools.  Get some cards printed up if you don’t already have some.  And if you’re going to be in other shows soon, think about little flyers advertising where you’ll be next.  Maybe they’ll come find you next time if they didn’t buy from you this time.

And going back to my niche market comment – really think about what you are making and who is your ideal customer.  Do you think the craft show you’re applying to will attract that customer?  Sometimes you have to scope out the shows as a customer first before you know that you could be a vendor there.  I’ve had some stellar shows and some not so stellar shows, but in the end, I handed out some cards and new people were introduced to me and my Book-Inz.  Craft show organizers also shop other shows in search of vendors they think will fit in their shows.  Which means you could be invited to participate in other shows just by being at another.  And the lesson here is ALWAYS HAVE YOUR GAME ON.  More on that later.

Booking a smaller show for your first show out of the gate is the best piece of advice I can give you.  I booked a large well-known show my first time out and I had NO IDEA what to expect.  I didn’t have enough stock, I was almost sold out by noon and had to stay until 5, and I was woefully unprepared for the big crowds.  On the other hand, I also learned how to market Book-Inz and what made them attractive, trial by fire!  And the next year when Book-Inz returned, repeat customers were so happy to see Book-Inz!

And that brings me to another point: once you’ve participated as a vendor at a particular show, you will then be a returning vendor from here on out.  Which means you will be given first preference the next year to return to that show.  Book-Inz is booked for the month of November for every year from here on out as long as I decide to return to that venue.

And on that note, I will leave you to Keep Calm and Read On…next week’s topic is Setting Up Your Booth!

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Book-Inz Random Thoughts: Craft Shows #2 (Money Talks)

Last week I started a Wednesday series on the various topics related to getting into the craft show circuit.  I’m not sure how many posts this will entail, but I assure you at the end of this series you will have the rudimentary knowledge you’ll need to get yourself out in front of the buying public as a professional crafter.

Before You Begin

So you have a crafty hobby that looks like it might make a worthwhile business.  Or you’ve been making things as gifts and someone has mentioned you should start selling them.  Or you’ve been selling online and feel like you’re ready to meet the buying public.  Or any number of other thoughts that have somehow lead you down the path to craft shows.

But first things first – MONEY.  It’s always about the money.   Where do you put the money, how do you get the money, how do you keep the money. If you’ve already established the money side of your crafty business, I’m most likely repeating what you already know.  And just maybe I’m sharing something you didn’t know…

I’m not going to talk about business models, or corporations, or any of that highbrow business stuff. You can pay an accountant and attorney for that information and I strongly suggest that you do at some point in your business affairs.

I’m going to get you set up as a sole proprietor running your own small crafty business.  Because you need to have a separate accounting for crafty business money – EVEN IF YOU’RE USING THAT MONEY AS PERSONAL INCOME. Here’s why – supplies can be purchased tax-exempt, most expenses on behalf of the crafty business are deductible, and craft fair booth fees can add up quickly! Not to mention travel and meals.  I’ll get to that in a minute. In fact, I’ll just be giving you the steps now and explaining the why’s and wherefore’s further on.

First things first – get yourself down to your local county courthouse (or sub-courthouse if you live in a larger metropolis) and file a DBA.  AKA “Your Name DOING BUSINESS AS Your Business Name.” In Texas, it’s about $20 to file and you keep this name for ten years.  As the court clerk who took my filing says, “And in ten years, I hope you’re rich and I’m retired!”  CAVEAT: This only protects your name in the county you file.  If you want to protect your name in multiple counties, you can either file DBA’s wherever you want OR you can file as a corporation and trademark your business name.  If you’re going that route, I strongly suggest you see an attorney and an accountant who can explain the pros and cons of that mess.  Not that it’s a mess, but it is an incredible headache if you choose to undertake it by yourself.  If you’re going corporate, get professional advice and don’t go it alone.

Second – This one is iffy for most people, but it was the first thing I did.  Get a post office box.

Third – hightail it to your local bank (sometimes your personal bank will give you breaks when you open a business account) and set up a small business checking and savings.  Get one set of checks and a debit card.  NOTHING ELSE.  No merchant account, nothing.  Just get basic business checking and savings.  And use your new PO Box street address.

Fourth – In Texas, go here and apply for your Sales Tax and Use Permit. It’s easy, quick, and you’ll have your number issued at the end of the process.  Print out the signature form, mail it in, and you’ll have your actual paper permit in two to three weeks.  For non Texans, your State Comptroller’s office will have the information you’ll need to apply.  Keep in mind, there are a few states that do not collect sales tax, so this may not apply to you.

Fifth – Set up a Square account (www.squareup.com).  No, I am not a paid affiliate for Square.  In my personal experience, Square is the easiest and quickest way to accept credit card payments in person. No contracts, no monthly obligations, even the card reader is FREE – just a straight fee based service that’s comparable to PayPal in costs. The only caveat here is that you will need a cell phone with smartphone capabilities. Square works on iOS and Android platforms. I talked about using Square in a past blog post.

Now you are set up to do business in the State of Texas.  And why is this so important?  Because for Texas, and any state that collects sales tax, you have to file an accounting of your sales for tax purposes.  This is what makes your business legal.  If you sell anything in the State of Texas, you are required to collect sales tax, PERIOD. You can be fined $500.00 PER DAY for operating a business without a Sales and Use Tax Permit in Texas.  *NOTE: For y’all who don’t live ‘round here, this is an important issue to research in your state.

The other part of having the Sales and Use Tax Permit in Texas is that you can make tax exempt supply purchases at most, if not all, retail establishments.  Once you get your permit, make several copies and take them to the various local businesses where you purchase supplies.  Usually the businesses will have a form for you to fill out and attach a copy of your permit so you don’t have to present it every time you make a purchase.

One way or another, the State is going to get their sales tax, capisce?

Here’s why you should get a PO Box – if you’re online and don’t have a PO Box, anyone you purchase from or sell to now has your home address.  Or work address.  And given the economy and other factors, having large packages frequently shipped to your office isn’t always kosher.  Having everyone know your home address isn’t safe, either.  USPS now has a service that allows you to write your PO Box address as if it’s a street address and will accept deliveries up to 70 pounds from ANY shipper on your behalf.  Not only that, but they will also email or text you when your box has mail.  And this service is FREE. A small box is about $75.00 a year and a very small price to pay for peace of mind.  Do you really want to risk a disgruntled customer showing up at your home or workplace? *NOTE: PO Box rental fees are tax deductible.

Your business checking account and debit card will allow you to make these purchases in a way that makes that accounting easy to calculate on whatever basis you are required to file.  In Texas, small businesses such as ours typically file quarterly.  I don’t know about you but I am not the most organized person in the world (this is a HUGE understatement) and having all of my receipts in one place with the bank statements to back them up (rather back up my faulty memory) makes it a snap to file those quarterly tax forms.  The other thing your business account does is keep your business spending separate from your personal spending.  THIS is a HUGE deal for Federal tax purposes.  *NOTE: Bank fees are tax deductible.

I’m not really but sort of segueing into Craft Show Booth issues, which is an entirely different section of this series, but here it is: The fees you pay for your craft show booths are tax deductible.  I repeat: the fees you pay for your craft show booths are tax deductible. Did you get that?  I only emphasize it because I have talked to craft show vendors more seasoned than I who DIDN’T know this.  Use your business account for all transactions related to your business.  Please.  I am doing you a huge favor by stressing this one point.  When you start your tax process next December/January/February/March (please don’t start in April), separating personal from business will be your largest headache ever.

Other things that are deductible that you might not know about: service fees (PO Box rental, postage meter, annual domain renewal, web hosting, etc.) Just about any money you pay for a service for your business is deductible.  So is mileage travelling to and from shows, even local ones.  As well as meals purchased the day of the show and during travel to and from shows. From here on out, in future sections, I will add a note that the suggestion is also tax deductible. Eventually, you’ll see why keeping the monies separate is such a big deal, if you haven’t already come to that realization.

Square.  Credit card processing.  Another big deal when it comes to selling at craft shows.  Sure, you could sign up for a merchant account and get locked into multi-year contract with monthly fees on top of processing fees on top of the cost of the equipment…but why do that kind of damage to your cash flow?  While I’m sure there are other companies out there that do the same thing that Square does, this is who I chose to go with and they have been good to me and for me.  Accepting credit cards is a benefit to you AND to your customers.  I don’t know if you’ve noticed lately, most people don’t carry cash anymore.  I know I don’t.  And having the ability to accept credit cards takes away the old excuse of ‘I don’t have any cash’ and sometimes spurs the customer to purchase more.  I know for Book-Inz, there was a noticeable uptick in quantity sales when I started using Square.  So do your research and set yourself up with an account.  Your customers will appreciate you and your bank account will thank you. *Note: Credit card processing fees are tax deductible.

Next week, we’ll talk about finding your shows.  Until then, Keep Calm and Read On!

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Book-Inz Random Thoughts: Craft Shows

I’m not sure why but I am frequently asked about how to get into the craft show circuit.  I am no expert and I don’t claim to be.  We did do about two shows a month last year and I guess people think doing that many shows gives us an edge?  At any rate, I find myself repeating the same things over and over to different people until I finally decided to put it in writing so I can refer them here.

What I’m planning is a Wednesday series on the various topics related to getting into the craft show circuit.  I’m not sure how many posts this will entail, but I assure you at the end of this series you will have the rudimentary knowledge you’ll need to get yourself out in front of the buying public as a professional crafter.

I’ll start by introducing myself today and next week I’ll delve into the first thing you’ll need to do…

My name is Ky (key) and I created Book-Inz, a patent-pending, handmade, fabric magnetic bookmark that stays on your book and in your book till you’re done reading.  It’s very difficult to tell you how it works, Book-Inz has to be seen to be understood, but once you get it, you get why it’s so cool – as many readers can attest! I’ve started calling it Intelligent Bookmarkery.

I am by no means an expert in marketing, sales, or business.  What I am is a seasoned craft show vendor who is also a nerd of epic proportions.  What does this mean for you?  I have a plethora of tips, tricks, ideas, and advice from all I’ve experienced, read, researched, and practiced and I am going to share this information with you.  I am a bona fide, card carrying, don’t-even-need-to-advertise-you-can-just-tell nerd.  Which means I read everything.  Twice.  And sometimes thrice.  Some of it works, some of it doesn’t.  But what did stick and what did work I will be sharing here with you.

And when I say experienced, I really mean experienced.  There have been many memorable moments…and some wish-they-weren’t-so-memorable-moments in my crafty career.  But before I go there, I need to tell you how I got here.  I’m a legal/numbers girl.  I tell people my day job is reading the fine print.  I actually manage contracts between owners and construction companies.  Really fun (for me), really detailed, and really logical.  Book-Inz is my left-brained, creative, and functional contribution to the world of book reading.  Because I’m too logical to leave function behind.  You’ve most likely read or heard the story of how Book-Inz began so I won’t go too much into it here.  Just know that I needed a creative outlet to escape from the corporate life.

I do need to caveat that I live in Texas, therefore my legal tidbits will come from that perspective.  I don’t claim to know how crafty business works in other states, I will leave you something to research after reading this novella. Nor will this information be about online selling.  There is already a wealth of knowledge in that arena and my contribution would be nothing more than regurgitating what has already been said.  What I aim to offer is how to get your crafty business off the ground and start selling at the craft shows – if that is the direction you want to go.

You’re reading this intro because I want you to understand I am just like you.  Or rather, I was you, a couple years and many shows ago.  I had no idea where to start, where to go, what to do…in hindsight, I did a lot of things backwards. But shoulda, woulda, coulda…right? Onward and upward…

See you next week, until then, Keep Calm and Read On!

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Crafty Business: Craft Shows Tips & Tricks (LINKS)

Since we’re starting to apply for our Spring shows, I thought I’d share some of the most helpful interwebs information I’ve found…

  • If you’re looking for shows in the DFW area, DFW Craft Shows is THE site to search
  • If you’re looking for booth set up inspiration, Show Me Your Booths is a fun place to start
  • For some random thoughts on craft shows, this blog is interesting
  • Tania at DFW Craft Shows also posted a Craft Show Survival Kit for getting organized for shows
  • I’m a HUGE fan of Martha Latta of Sunday Afternoon Housewife.  She has several blog posts about successful craft show tips.  Here is one
  • If you’ve NEVER done a craft fair and are interested, check this out
  • Sunday Afternoon Housewife has done it again, with this post about OUTDOOR craft shows
  • etsy wrote this article about Craft Show Must Haves
  • Another great website for finding craft shows in your area is CraftLister/EventLister
  • And I’m going to end this fantastic, but by no means complete, list with another smashing Sunday Afternoon Housewife article about determining which craft shows are right for you…it’s not always as easy as it sounds

And I’ll leave you with this one last bonus link, it’s Book-Inz’ own.  It’s about how we deal with not so stellar craft show sales.  Trust me, it DOES happen.

Hope your Spring crafting season is amazing!

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What Book-Inz Did This Weekend!

We had a show in Dallas this weekend.  I hope we got to see you!  Otherwise, here are the details!

We were at Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church Saturday to help raise money for the Mi Escuelita Pre-School.  These are the types of fundraising shows I like the most.  Instead of a flat booth fee for the whole show, Mi Escuelita based their fee on the percentage of your gross sales for the day.  In other words, instead of being out a booth fee whether you make sales or not, you paid a percentage of what you did sell, so if you sold nothing, well, you paid nothing.  This kind of fee schedule makes great business sense for the new-to-shows crafter.  Your out of pocket is minimal. 

The day started out ominously, cloudy and gray, with a scattering of sprinkles on my way in to set up.  Luckily, we had invested in a pop-up canopy for outdoor events (one of the GREATEST investments a crafter can make).  Another bonus to this show was the abundant presence of volunteers to help unload (and later, load) your car! Eventually, the day cleared up and we got sun with a light breeze.  Occasional gusts of wind made for some unfortunate mishaps for other vendors, but we all pitched in and helped them get set up again.  One of the things I really like about the show circuit is that you make friends with your booth neighbors and can help each other out.

The actual show its self wasn’t the most profitable day we’ve ever had.  It wasn’t the absolute worst, either, and let me tell you why:

Our very last customer sits on the board of directors for Project Literacy of Dallas.  An organization that I have been trying to make contact with for some time now.  She took my card and asked if I would mind the Executive Direcftor making contact with me directly.  Of course not! 

I’ve been told I’m quite the Pollyana, yet I have to say that by seeing the positive in every negative situation (even the not so negative, but not so positive), I have achieved a peace about my business.  I’m not going to lie and tell you I wouldn’t mind make more sales, but I also know that a large part of the business’ success will come from the marketing.   And I am THRILLED to have made that contact with this person!

We also met some new vendor friends that we will be sharing with you in the c0ming months!  All in all, I think we had a wonderful show Saturday.  I hope you’ll get to come out and see us one of these weekends!  Check our Events page for our calendar of shows! 

Speaking of shows, is there a show you know of that you’d like to see us attend?  Let me know and we’ll try our best to be there!

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