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Re: Inventing: Creating Your Version of Success (w/ Alina Kravchenko, Founder - Better Way Goods & Better Way Body)

Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:00:00]:

What makes your business successful? Is it your bottom line? Your company culture? How quickly you can scale? We all have different goals as entrepreneurs. For Alina Kravchenko, she defines her entrepreneurial success based on one simple factor that we tend to overlook, how much creativity she's able to express as a founder. Born in Ukraine, Alina came to North America when she was 9 years old. She was raised by a single mom whom Alina credits as the one person who believed in her consistently. As a single mom herself, who loved to flex her creative muscles, there was no shortage of people who looked down on Alina. Even as a kid, Alina was always tinkering. Painting, arts and crafts, making whatever she could from scratch and she eventually went into advertising. But even as a small child, she knew that the corporate world wasn't for her.

 

Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:00:54]:

So she drained her 401 k and secured a patent for SwipenSnap, her one hand applicator for baby ointment. The product landed her a spot on Shark Tank and inspired her to launch TonerBum, An ergonomic weight designed specifically for glute workouts. Money was never the core motivator for Alina even after all of her success. In fact, she'll be the 1st to tell you that she's still living well below her means. She doesn't have any subscriptions like Spotify or Netflix. She never even touches her TV. And while you might find that to be a bit extreme, Alina said that she'd simply rather be creating. The freedom to create isn't just Alina's greatest asset as an entrepreneur, it's what brings her joy as a person.

 

Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:01:35]:

And it's definitely what makes her successful. This week, I sat down with Alina to hear about her creativity driven approach to entrepreneurship. Why does she feel so driven to constantly create? How did she persist during times of immense stress as a single mom? And how can we determine our own versions of success as entrepreneurs? I'm Katherin Vasilopoulos and this is And So, She Left, the podcast about incredible women and the wisdom they gained beyond the corporate world. Studying advertising and web design landed Alina a job at Norton Antivirus. But even as a kid, Alina knew that she wasn't destined to stay in one job forever.

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:02:39]:

I have always wanted to be a business owner, I think, since the minute I knew what work was. I think after about a year, I was very bored and I knew I needed, like, a lot more. I didn't wanna just be, an expert in one thing. I wanted to kind of be a jack of all trades.

 

Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:02:56]:

Eventually, Alina found herself creeping towards the world of entrepreneurship that she had always admired from afar. And when she did take the plunge, she did so through a pretty gutsy move. What happened while you were at Norton that made you realize, okay, maybe I need to get out of this?

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:03:17]:

Well, I love the beginning part of being challenged in learning new things. And after about a year and a half, it was like, okay, this is you're just gonna keep doing the same task over and over. And I wanted to be challenged more, but, I mean, when you're a piece of a huge pie, you're in charge of being an expert one thing, which I got really good at, but I wanted more and I was hungry for that challenge. And knowing that I want to start a business, not exactly what kind of business, but I love creating products, and I had filed for a patent many years ago. I told myself, okay. If I get this patent, then I will quit my corporate job and bring it to life. That was kind of like a deal I made with myself. I'll never forget the day where I went out for lunch and, you know, had my perfectly stable job, my 401K growing and insurance and a stable paycheck and walked outside to check my email and, my patent attorney had emailed me, congratulations.

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:04:20]:

You're officially an inventor. I almost dropped my phone. I was like I had I had chills of my body with excitement, but also fear because, that meant that I had to leave that stability. And, you know, being a single mom, let me just say with, like, no resources other than just myself, and my family later was really scary.

 

Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:04:44]:

It is scary. You're relying on yourself, you're relying on that one income, and then if you'd give that up, then what happens? There's no guarantee if you start your own business that it's gonna go well in that 1st year. Nope. No. So I get it. Like, it's scary. It's it is exciting to get that piece of news, but now you actually have to make it happen. Right?

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:05:02]:

Exactly. So for me, I took all of the 401K and just drained it and put it in my company, and that gave me enough, to at least have prototypes and samples that to be taken seriously by investors. And then, that landed me my 1st investor who then gave me more funds to bring more units to the market. And then with that, I had the ability to go on Shark Tank and be taken seriously.

 

Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:05:31]:

Well, that took guts because draining your 401K is no easy thing. It's really like you're removing that that, safety net. That you have underneath you, and now it's gone. But as you said, it it allowed you to put something together to keep you to afloat and to be taken seriously. Tell me about the the product and the patent. What was that about?

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:05:51]:

So my first patent, was the patented one hand cream applicator, which I named SwipenSnap, which allows you to apply, ointment, specifically diaper cream ointment using just 1 hand, keeping your hands clean, and your baby safe. So my son was a very squirmy baby, and the pediatrician was like, you have to keep 1 hand on the baby at all times because, like, one second, you let go of the baby. Even if he's strapped in, he can roll over, and that happens a lot. Like, babies fall and they get injured.

 

Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:06:25]:

You need one hand on the feet or the legs, and then you have to have the other hand, doing the other thing. Yes.

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:06:30]:

People that have kids, they get it. It's like a automatic, oh my gosh. Yes. So I kept facing that problem of, like, how to get this ointment on him. And when the idea came to me in my mind's eye, I just knew I had to bring it to life. And that's where I began to do some research on how to write a patent. I had no experience in any kind of law or patent, but I read patent it yourself and learn how to create patent drawings and specifications and then I was able to get the patent 5 years later.

 

Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:07:07]:

Right. But this was the one of many different things that you've invented. Right?

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:07:11]:

Well, it was the 1st initial, and that gave me the confidence to invent other things because I already knew how to write a patent. And now it's like, oh, okay. Well, if I have another idea like my TonerBum, glute weight, then I could just write another patent for it without using a lot of money.

 

Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:07:29]:

Tell me about this TonerBum.

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:07:31]:

So I love fitness. I'm working out, but obviously being a busy working mom, I have a lot on my plate and really leaves my glutes kind of like soft and not very appealing, but also my lower back pain. And the best workout to, like, really strengthen the glutes is putting, like a handheld weight behind the back of your legs, but the problem is that handheld weights aren't made for your glutes. They end up falling off and very uncomfortable to use during that workout. So I'm like, there's gotta be a better way. And I started tinkering with different types of shapes and metals, and it took about a year before I perfected the final version and, created the prototype and really didn't think about bringing it to life. But I did have people start complementing my glutes. It was kind of like, okay.

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:08:24]:

Thanks. Like, it was a new, like, oh, because I don't look back there. Right? Like, I'm doing this for health, and I have, like, about five samples and handed them out to friends and family, and they were just loving it. I got chills because, like, not to check my mom out, but she's, like, in her sixties. And I was like, mom, your butt looks good. And she goes, I know. It's your product.

 

Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:08:54]:

So tell me about your experience at Shark Tank. What happened there?

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:08:58]:

That was literally a dream come true. I had dreamed of being on the show watching it, and, that was 2021 and, like, during the whole COVID lockdown, which was also its own interesting experience because-

 

Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:09:12]:

Oh, yeah.

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:09:12]:

-I think it was the 1st show where none of the contestants even met each other. It was an isolating experience where it's just me the whole time, eventually, my mom helped me. She, helped me demonstrate how the product works.

 

Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:09:25]:

Oh, I see. I see. But the preparation for it and actually being part of it, what did it, what did it bring you as an an experience?

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:09:33]:

It really gave me the confidence that I could do anything I set my mind to. I think, being the dreamer that I naturally am, so excited and passionate about creating things, I feel like my whole life people have told me, like, that's not possible. And the only person who really believed in me was my mom. Everyone else, like, the whole world was like, no, you won't get the patent or it's you won't get on the show or that's too hard, and I think just listening to other people got me in a place where I was just like, yeah, maybe they're right. But then there was still that part of me, like, this voice that I couldn't get out of my heart and my soul that was just like, no. Don't listen to them. Like, just you can do it. You just have to persevere.

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:10:18]:

That gave me the confidence to do anything I put my mind to.

 

Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:10:22]:

Yes. I think it'd be very substantial to show up on a TV program and then to get that kind of support and exposure that changes everything.

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:10:30]:

Yeah. I was finally taken seriously. Like yeah. People weren't, like, laughing and making fun because they were, like, oh, look at her. She's some inventor. She thinks she's, like, you know, gonna be on Shark Tank. Look at her, a single mom barely making ends meet, like, tinkering with stuff. Like, people don't really take you seriously until they're like, oh, wow, you actually have a product that, like, consumers really want and sharks are taking seriously and you're creating other things and you have serious investors wanting to give you a lot of money for shares.

 

Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:11:00]:

Exactly. So you mentioned that, sometimes there is some self doubt, and you've been trying to surmount that. And, of course, there have been people who have said stuff to you, as a result of them thinking, oh, you're just this, you know, inventor. And, tell me more about, you know, the origins of the of the self doubt in your life.

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:11:18]:

Yeah. It hits me hard when I have to think about that because, it comes up very often. Like, just thinking about it actually, mhmm, tears me up because It's a never ending battle of just feeling it and, you know, being an immigrant, wasn't born in America and seeing all the challenges my mom faced and then having an unplanned pregnancy and being a woman and I just feel like sometimes all of the odds are stacked against me. Like, it's almost impossible. And then on top of it, whenever, you know, I surround myself with people who also confirm that it is impossible, I get into a dark place of like hopelessness and like, yeah, self doubt and and questioning my own self and my journey and, you know, worrying if I'm making the right choices and, you know, what happens to my son if I fail because I'm all he has. And it's scary to, you know, make a mistake for yourself and, you know, you're now in charge of a human. You mess up or you do something, then that's affecting this innocent person's life.

 

Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:12:45]:

Mhmm.

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:12:46]:

And being in that place, I've gone in a direction where I let fear direct me and gone into kind of a self doubt and kind of put all my inventing to the side and maybe make starting to make decisions that are a little bit more, like, logical versus, like, these aren't starting companies from scratch.

 

Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:13:07]:

Right.

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:13:08]:

It's never ending because the self doubt will come up and I just try to talk to myself through it and say that this is temporary. This feeling that you have, whatever may happen, it feels like you're all everything's collapsing at once. Like, I was up against a very big deal where a lot of money was on the line, and it was a very big and emotional roller coaster of like, yes, a no, a yes, or no. And it was a line between, like, me being broke or a multimillionaire. That juggle of, like, will I be successful or will I be a failure? And I came to this kind of like spiritual awakening where I'm like, by letting this number in my bank account or these materialistic possessions swing my emotions so powerfully, it was so heavy and draining on me that I was like, I'm giving this too much power. I'm letting go of this and not allowing this to happen anymore. And that's where I kind of went into a place of cutting all these expenses out of my life and living way below my means. I mean, to the point where I'm just like, I don't even have Netflix account.

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:14:25]:

I don't have Spotify. I don't have, Amazon Prime. I've cut down every single tiny thing. My time and my money is precious, and I only put it in things that empower me and that I love and they give me energy. And it's created space in my life to be able to give back. I started volunteering at my church and helping them with their website and events, and it just opened up this new channel of energy I didn't even know I had because I felt like so drained from feeling like I needed to be. I had a certain financial place to be a school, but I have met entrepreneurs who had multimillion dollar bank accounts, who are on antidepressants, who were alcoholics, Who were overweight, who had unhealthy, unstable relationships with their spouses, with their family, and with themselves. And to me, that didn't look like success.

 

Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:15:23]:

Can I ask you where where were you born?

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:15:26]:

I was born in Ukraine.

 

Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:15:29]:

Okay. And how old were you when you came to North America?

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:15:33]:

I was 9.

 

Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:15:34]:

You're 9. Okay. So, old enough to have made some memories

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:15:39]:

Yes.

 

Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:15:40]:

Of that process. Yeah. And do you find that that immigrant experience shaped you in who you are, obviously. I know the answer is yes, but it's shaped you into your work ethic and how you think about things.

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:15:53]:

Oh, yes. Absolutely. Being raised by a single mom in Ukraine, I got a lot of experiencing things that people that I was friends with when I came here have never seen you know, my mom always had our fridge stocked and we never hunger, but there were kids everywhere that were abandoned by their parents and walking in the streets, sleeping in cars, being homeless, I didn't even understand what being homeless meant until my sister and I were, like, playing around. We threw, like, some, like, stuff we didn't like out from the fridge out the window. We lived on the 2nd floor. We were just being, like, silly. And all the kids that we played with outside ran up to the food and started eating it off the ground and...I'm gonna start crying now.

 

Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:16:41]:

Oh, no. I'm sorry.

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:16:42]:

No. It just hit me so hard when I was little. I was only, like, 8 and seeing that hit my heart, and I was like, I never knew what hunger was because my mom, like, never let me feel that. But when I saw those kids be that hungry, I asked my mom. I said, can we make sandwiches for my friends? And that feeling of, like, wanting to do something kind for others brought me so much joy and, that feeling stuck with me forever. I guess people call it compassion, But now when I see, someone in need, I just stop and help them, and it makes me so happy to do that, and I hope that I could do more of that.

 

Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:17:29]:

We don't realize how good we have it here in in North America in most cases. And not everyone sees the poverty. Not everyone sees bad situations. Not everyone experiences homelessness or war or anything like that. So we need to always be grateful and remember those those people and and know that we're in a better place and we have to keep trying. So when aren't we think we're having a bad day, it's not a bad day. It's just an unfortunate blip. Just get back up.

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:17:58]:

Exactly.

 

Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:18:05]:

I picked up on something that you said before, and I wanna go back to that, which is when you said there's gotta be a better way. I think that in your journey, that's how you operate. Finding a better way to do things, finding a better way and tinkering with the thing and then coming up with different versions of it, until you can find the way that works the best. Am I right? Tell me more about all the learnings, that you've had throughout that kind of process.

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:18:30]:

When we face a problem no matter what it is, there's always a solution. There's actually probably an infinite amount of solutions. And that's where once you start looking at the world in that lens, then it becomes very exciting. You become like a creator of, these amazing things that can problem solve whatever you're facing. So my journey has been specifically with products that empower women. Being a single working mom, I think there's a lot of pressure on women to look a certain way and be a perfect mom, and I want to give women the tools that empower them. So the journey is challenging. And, you know, a lot of the industries I have gone into were male driven.

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:19:14]:

Like, my first trade show was, the baby industry, And I remember, you know, having a booth for SwipenSnap and looking around, and all the CEOs and all the like, 90% of the baby industry is owned by men. I was like-

 

Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:19:28]:

That's surprising.

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:19:28]:

-This is weird. Do you guys know anything about a baby? But it's just interesting to see that women are becoming more entrepreneurial, but we still have to bear all the pressure of being a mom. So it's like we have double the work.

 

Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:19:46]:

And the relationships that you build with fellow entrepreneurs, other people who are supporting your business, all that's important. And the other thing I wanted to mention was how many times do you have to, fall flat on your face sometimes to just, you know, get back up again and find the way to forgive yourself for not being perfect on the first shot?

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:20:07]:

Yes. I don't like to say fail, I like to say fall because you could always get back up and forgive yourself for that. And being okay with the falls and knowing that you are strong enough and capable enough to get back up from whatever it is that you messed up on. Instead of creating solutions, I'm beating myself up for things that I'm like, oh, I should have done this. Why didn't I do this? And that kind of energy really is not healthy for, progress. So one example was working with different kinds of threads, to try to get it to fit on all these different types of diaper creams. And, I had bought all the types of threads on the market and had shipped it to my manufacturer and having them all try it out. They had missed one cream, which is turns out to be like the number one brand that like most of my customers use and I started getting all these, like, negative reviews, and I was like, oh, I said on Shark Tank it fits all diaper creams, but my manufacturer missed this 1 tube.

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:21:08]:

That apparently doesn't work, and it's it's like this number one bestseller. And you can't, like, have it all figured out. These are the things that you kinda make assumptions based on, like, the information you have at hand, but forgiving yourself is very important and knowing that, okay, well, what could I do now to kind of fix this and learn from it is the key.

 

Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:21:32]:

Right. And you get an opportunity to redesign something and have a next generation of it released at a later time and then have a touch point with your customers and say, hey, look, we have a a re-release right now based on feedback. Yes. Or whatever has to happen. And then people are like, oh, you're listening. You're listening to us and our needs.

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:21:49]:

Exactly. I mean, I wish it could, like, work where it's those existing customers because by the time my customers have, you know, their baby is already grown, but at least, the newer customers will know the journey that, I, as a woman entrepreneur, took on to make this product the best that I can for them.

 

Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:22:09]:

Tell me about what it felt like to become your own boss.

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:22:13]:

I love being my own boss. It's scary sometimes because you're like, what do I do? Like, there's no, I guess, agenda. No one really keeping tabs on, like, how long you should be in the office. Right? Like, a 9 to 5. You have a boss.

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:22:27]:

You kind of create your own to do list. And in initially, it's hard because you don't know where to start, like, what do I do? Kinda like walking through a forest. In the 1st time, it's a jungle. And it's hard to get through these different paths. Where do I go next? What do I do next? I personally love creating my own tasks. If you don't, then maybe, I don't know, entrepreneurship may not be for you. I'm not saying that it isn't. It's just like I love being self motivated and being productive in creating things.

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:23:01]:

Like, I don't need anyone to tell me, like, what to do and even if I've worked in other businesses, I I create my own tasks. There's different types of people. Right? Different personalities. And if you're the type of person I think that just loves creating, loves learning, loves to be self motivated, then this journey will be a lot easier for you because that's a requirement.

 

Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:23:26]:

Yes. But you need that self motivation. Nobody's gonna do it for you, there's no structure for you, as if you had a 9 to 5. Mhmm. You really need to be able to wake up every morning and say, what am I doing today? And then plan ahead also. There's no other way to do it.

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:23:40]:

Absolutely. I use Google Sheets to create, like, a a task list. I have a a big, like, 1 year plan, and I break that down into pieces. And it changes as things, you know, evolve, but I have a priority. Like, today, I have 1, 2, 3. If I have the time and the energy to to get to 3, I'll get to it. But if I don't, that's gonna be my task tomorrow. I just love the joy of creation.

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:24:11]:

Mhmm. And being able to put my energy into a physical product that enhances people's lives brings this incredible fulfillment in my heart. Knowing that one day these people that I've never even met can use my product to enhance their lives and solve a problem that they're facing and connecting with them on a very unique level through my products. That's a very interesting and exciting it's just such a powerful feeling. You know, I won't be able to live forever, but maybe, you know, my products will last a little longer and being able to contribute to helping people long after I'm gone, and I think when I'm, like, 85, I'm gonna say, okay. I did good. Maybe I, you know, I created some stuff that hopefully helps some people.

 

Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:24:59]:

It's amazing. Like a legacy, really.

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:25:02]:

Yeah. Yeah. It's a very fulfilling legacy.

 

Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:25:05]:

Let me ask this, though. Are there, along the way when as you've been working, what do you believe to be some myths about entrepreneurship that, you see people buying into, but now you know are not true.

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:25:19]:

There's several myths. I think, the first one being, like, you need a lot of money to start. Yeah. It helps, obviously, if you have what they call runway, but I was able to make it happen. And if you look at your finances and you trim it down to, like, the bare necessities. You realize you really don't need that much. So, I cut down on everything to such a bare minimum that I realized I don't really don't need that much money to support myself and my son. And that now I have all this freedom and time to be able to pursue my business instead of, like, watching TV.

 

Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:25:56]:

Right?

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:25:57]:

I never even owned a TV. Like-

 

Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:26:00]:

What? You don't own a TV?

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:26:02]:

No. I mean, like, I eventually have one, but I don't watch TV. And that's the thing is like, I'll you know, when my friends come over, we'll put on a show, but I'm like, Oh, every time I'm watching a show, I'm like, I'd rather be inventing. I'm out with friends and they're like happy hour. I'm like, I'd rather be inventing.

 

Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:26:20]:

I'm sending you a t shirt that's gonna say I'd rather be inventing.

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:26:23]:

I mean, seriously. I really am just, when you fall in love with what you do, I think it becomes the center of your joy.

 

Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:26:33]:

Mhmm.

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:26:32]:

And even if you, like, feel like you wanna go back to corporate America, know that you can go back. It's not like, yeah, it's going away. You can get a job and, you know, explain that you try to start a business and, you know, whatever happened, what you learned, that's a resume piece too.

 

Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:26:51]:

Yes. Yes. And there's no linear way of doing anything. Everything's a zigzag. You just, you do what you can and, yes, some businesses don't thrive. Some businesses, they've literally tanked. They just don't work. But it's not because of a lack of trying.

 

Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:27:04]:

Maybe the market wasn't ready, or the the product wasn't the right thing, or whatever it is. And also, you can continue building a business and continue changing your business model. Just because you started off on year one with one thing, it doesn't mean that by year five, it's the same thing as when you started.

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:27:21]:

If you are after the money or finances, then get a corporate job. Like, get an MBA and get the highest level of education you can and go in corporate America. That's where money is. Right? Mhmm. But if you want to do something that brings you joy and you believe in it, that is your core of what you should give your life to, is what makes you happy because money is not going to bring you joy. You only need a certain amount of money to take care of your basic needs. And anything above, like, the basic needs, you only really have little peaks of joy, maybe vacation, maybe a bigger house, another car, but then it flattens because it's the hedonic treadmill. If you look at what people do on the weekends, statistically, the majority of people either go shopping and they spend money or they go out to eat and spend money or go out to drink and spend money.

 

Alina Kravchenko [00:28:18]:

All we do on our weekends and spend money. And then the five days a week, we're working to make that money. And it's this hedonic treadmill of chasing that weekend, that happy hour, that, like, little gap of happiness, but life doesn't have to be that way. You could find the joy in the Monday morning and being happy that you're creating something And not have it be a means to an end.

 

Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:28:42]:

Thank you so much to Alina Kravchenko. You can learn more about SwipenSnap and TonerBum through the links in the episode description. If you like the show, please rate, review, and review And So, She Left wherever you listen. Your feedback helps us to better serve current listeners and reach new ones. We also have a new website. Head over to andsosheleft.com for full episodes, transcripts, an application form to be on the show, a list of upcoming guests, and more. And So, She Left is made by Cansulta and Ethan Lee. Cansulta connects entrepreneurs and leaders with a global roster of over 150 pre vetted consultants and experts like Ethan and I, who can help organizations in any business area from HR to finance to sales and marketing and even product design.

 

Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:29:29]:

We'll be back next Wednesday with a new episode. Our music is by Correspondence and Chris Zabriskie, edited for your enjoyment. And you can find a list of all the songs you heard here in the episode notes. I'm Katherin Vasilopoulos, and thanks for listening.

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