Category Archives: SBA

Government Shutdown and Your Small Business- 5 Things You Need to Know

  1. There are several functions of the U.S. Small Business Administration that will be affected by the recent government shutdown. Click here for SBA’s Plan for Operating in the Event of Lapse of Appropriations packet.  Business functions such as applications for business loans guaranteed by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) will be halted until the agency returns to its normal operations. The agency will, however, still administer disaster loans for businesses, such as those affected by droughts or Hurricane Sandy.  Existing loan guarantees will remain in effect.  For a complete listing of loans you can and can’t get, please click here.
  2. Contractors can find a listing of the contingency plans of the Federal agencies with which they do business on the White House’s websiteThis includes agencies such as the General Services Administration (GSA), Department of Defense (DoD) and the SBA. You can find a list of full and partial agency shutdowns here.
  3.  Many Federal call centers and help desks will be closed at this time, but some will remain open. The Federal Service Desk – a call center designed to respond to questions regarding your System for Award Management (SAM) registration will remain open.  Additionally, SAM will remain operational; registrations can be updated, managed and processed throughout this time.
  4. Several Federal government websites will not be updated until funds are appropriated to their respective agencies.  Others, however, will currently remain operational, for example, Federal Business Opportunities (FedBizOpps), the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), Security and Exchange Commission (SEC).
  5. Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTAC) and Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) like the PTAC/SBDC at the Women’s Business Development Center are here to provide information as it becomes available regarding how your business may be affected.  Please do not hesitate to contact your local PTAC or SBDC.  If your business is located in Illinois, please click here to schedule an appointment with our PTAC/SBDC at the Women’s Business Development Center.  If your business is located outside of Illinois please click here to find a PTAC in your area or here to locate an SBDC in your area.
Kristin Travis Pic

Kristin Travis

 

by: Kristin Travis, IL PTAC Associate

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Filed under Business, Procurement, SBA, Small Business, Uncategorized, WBDC News

“Where do I find a grant to start my woman-owned business?”

All too often at the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) we hear the question, “Where are the grants for women to start their businesses?” The answer: There are none.  No really, there are none.  If you find a grant for women starting a business, please post the information in the comments below, because in the last 27 years we have yet to see one.

Yes, there are loans for business start-ups, small business competitions with cash prizes and occasionally, you can find grants through Small Business Administration (SBA) non-profit partners, if you are already in business, but you aren’t going to find a grant without showing you have some “skin in the game.”  You need to prove that you are just as invested in your business as investors, grantors or lenders are going to be.  It’s time to get serious and shift your focus from looking for free money to building a solid foundation with a business plan, a thorough analysis of your financials (past personal and projected business) and target market research.

A question was recently posted on PartnerUp regarding the necessity of a traditional business plan.  Some thought they were irrelevant in this day and age of the ever changing business climate, while others saw them as completely necessary.  What do you think? Based on what we’ve seen with clients over the years, the ones that write down their idea into a solid plan and update that plan on a yearly basis have seen the greatest success and continue to sustain a fruitful business.  Plus, when it comes time to look for funding, it’s unlikely you’ll be taken seriously without putting your business in writing.

So what can you do if you’re a start-up looking for funding?  If you’re in Chicago, consider the WBDC Micro Finance Program, a direct lending program where the WBDC, as a core member of the Chicago Microlending Intitute (CMI), is making loans for Chicago business owners seeking additional support.  Plus, the WBDC provides a free webinar, Take the Mystery out of Finance, every month, and below is the most recent recording of the presentation, which covers crowdfunding and more. Watch it, take notes, and if you have questions ask us at wbdc@wbdc.org.

In two weeks, we’ll discuss more about furthering your education as a business owner when it comes to finance.  In the meantime, take time to become educated on financial resources available for you.  Here are just a few more, besides WBDC, to take a look at:

  1. Accion
  2. SBA
  3. FunderHut
  4. Family and friends

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Filed under Business Start-up, Established Business, Finance, SBA, WBDC, Women Business Owner, Women in Business

Encore Business Owners Share Business Tips

(L-R) Judith Roussel, IL District Director; SBA, Merrie Dee, AARP Illinois President; Hedy Ratner, WBDC co-founder & co-president; and Marianne O’Brien Markowitz Regional Administrator
U.S. Small Business Administration, Midwest Region

The speakers and audience may have been 50-plus, but their age wasn’t the issue. Starting a business was.

Nearly 50 mature women and men gathered at the WBDC on Tuesday evening, October 2, during the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) “National Encore Entrepreneur Mentor Day.” Marianne Markowitz, SBA regional administrator, and Judith Roussel, SBA Illinois district director, welcomed the group, then turned the program over to the celebrated speaker and media pioneer Merri Dee, now a business owner in her own right as well as president of the executive council of Illinois-AARP. Dee led a lively panel discussion featuring “encore” entrepreneurs on the rewards of starting a business after age 50.

The speakers were Donna Smith Bellinger, owner of Group Endeavors; Ben Hollis, former host of WTTW’s “Wild Chicago” and now an independent video producer who started Ben Hollis Worldwide; Joanne Cleaver, a former business journalist who launched a public affairs company Wilson-Taylor Associates; and Alan Jacobs, a former entrepreneur-of-sorts who volunteers at SCORE.

Their life experiences were as varied and diverse as they were, which is what made their words of wisdom all the more salient.

Merri Dee

“All you need are three things: passion, purpose – and a paycheck!”

Donna Bellinger

“The resource that helped me the most was my database of contacts. I started my business without a dime, but I had my database.”

Alan Jacobs

“I was a serial entrepreneur – a manufacturer’s rep who never had a regular job or paycheck. I understand exactly what it takes to succeed as a business owner. In my opinion, entrepreneurs who fail weren’t prepared.”

Ben Hollis

“I encourage people to embrace and live the wild life. Harness your passion, your wildness….I used to undervalue everything I did. I was just a funny guy. The limitations we place on ourselves get in the way. By listening to other people, I was able to reassess my own value. Pay attention to the things you do best. It’s what other people appreciate in you.”

Joanne Cleaver

“I restarted my career several times. I decided to base my latest transition on my skills. As a certified media trainer and coach, I now apply my skills to a different set of clients. I’ve transitioned from being self-employed to being a job-creator with a contract staff of specialists. My biggest challenge? In realizing my value. The biggest obstacle? Myself.”

With part of the evening’s focus on celebrating mentorship, the speakers shared advice on how to be a good mentor and mentee. Cleaver, for example, said joining professional organizations helped her develop peer mentors who mentored each other. Bellinger suggested looking for mentors who are honest and direct and who “have achieved what you struggled to achieve.” Don’t overlook the younger generation, she advised. You can learn from each other.

The WBDC will survey seminar attendees to determine whether a special affinity group for women business owners age 50-plus, and regular networking and educational sessions, are of interest.

Contributed by guest blogger Chris Ruys of Chris Ruys Communications.

For more pictures from the event, please click here.

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Filed under AARP, Business, Business Mentoring, Business Start-up, Entrepreneur, Established Business, SBA, Special Events, WBDC, WBDC News

5 Tips for Attending Trade Shows & Government Fairs

On April 25th, the WBDC-Minnesota office will be working with the U. S. Small Business Administration Minnesota District Office and the Minnesota Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) to support a Government Procurement Fair.  Below are tips to make any procurement fair a success for you!  If you’re interested in registering for the free government procurement fair in Minnesota, click here.

    1. Do your homework.  Study the list of exhibitors
      from the trade show/fair brochure, identify prospects and create a targeted hit list.

      • The contacts that are most important to you should be your first stop.  People in the booths are more alert and patient in the morning.  In fact, if you can arrive early to meet with those key contacts, you may beat traffic.
    2. Budget sufficient time and resources. Trade shows/fairs often have many components, including workshops and matchmaker meetings, so be sure to block half a day or the entire day, and possibly bring your sales force.
      • Make sure to take note of already scheduled appointments – do not skip an appointment!  If you must miss your appointment, provide adequate notice to your contact to ensure they can fill the spot and maintain a good relationship.
      • Also include time for new opportunities when budgeting your time.  You never know what’s out there for you and your business until you explore!
    3. Bring lots of business cards.
      • Always overestimate the number of business cards you need.
      • Ensure your card includes all the essential information including: name, title, company, website, work number, business address, and if this information doesn’t explain what your company does, be sure a one line description somewhere on the card.
      • Before you hand your card over, put the date of the fair on it to give a point of reference to the recipient.
    4. Look and act professional.
      • Taking the time to do your homework will give you an edge, as knowing what different agencies do can help you act more professional.  Being able to ask smart questions, as opposed to “What do you buy?” is essential.  You should already know what the agency buys before approaching the table.
      • Dress in a manner that distinguishes you while still being professional.
    5. Don’t forget to follow up with your new contacts and act on items you promised.
      • By taking quick action and touching base with new contacts you show that you have initiative and take seriously what you discussed.  Keep in mind the people working at the fair see hundreds of individuals in one day – make sure they see you again a few days later in their inbox or voicemail.

What else do you find useful when attending procurement fairs?  What about business expos and conferences?  Take a look at our article on how to have effective outreach during those as well!

Contributing Author: Natasha Fedorova, Program Director, WBDC-Minnesota

Source:  Bradt, Judy “2010 OSDBU Tips Want More Government Contracts in 2010?” 2010 PDF file

For more tips on how to make the most productive use of your visit to a Procurement Fair, please visit http://www.summitinsight.com/blogviewd.asp?id=93.

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Filed under Business, Business Leaders, Entrepreneur, Established Business, Marketing, Procurement, SBA, Small Business, Special Events, WBDC, WBDC- Minnesota

New NAICS Code Size Standards for Small Businesses

For the first time in about 25 years, the Small Business Administration recently changed its definition of “small business” in a variety of industries (see chart below). The end goal for these changes is to increase access to federal contracts and access to capital. “It allows small businesses to retain their small-business status and contracting officers to have a larger selection of small businesses to choose from for contracting opportunities,” said a SBA spokesperson.  The changes go into effect March 12,2012.  How do you think they’ll impact your small business?

Chart provided by: Cherry, Bekaert & Holland, published originally here.

NAICS Codes

NAICS industry title

Current size standard
($ millions)

Proposed size standard
($ millions)

Revised size standard
($ millions)

541110 Offices of Lawyers

$7.0

$10.0

$10.0

541191 Title Abstract and Settlement Offices

7.0

10.0

10.0

541199 All Other Legal Services

7.0

10.0

10.0

541211 Offices of Certified Public Accountants

8.5

14.0

19.0

541213 Tax Preparation Services

7.0

14.0

19.0

541214  Payroll Services

8.5

14.0

19.0

541219 Other Accounting Services

8.5

14.0

19.0

541310 Architectural Services

4.5

19.0

7.0

541320 Landscape Architectural Services

7.0

19.0

7.0

541330 Engineering Services

4.5

19.0

14.0

Except Military and Aerospace Equipment and Military Weapons

27.0

27.0

35.0

Except Contracts and Subcontracts for Engineering Services Awarded Under the National Energy Policy Act of 1992

27.0

27.0

35.5

Except Marine Engineering and Naval Architecture

18.5

25.5

35.5

541340 Drafting Services

7.0

19.0

7.0

Except Map Drafting

4.5

\1\

\1\

541350 Building Inspection Services

7.0

19.0

7.0

541360 Geophysical Surveying and Mapping Services

4.5

19.0

14.0

541370 Surveying and Mapping  (except Geophysical) Services

4.5

19.0

14.0

541380 Testing Laboratories

12.0

19.0

14.0

541410  Interior Design Services

7.0

7.0

7.0

541420  Industrial Design Services

7.0

7.0

7.0

541430 Graphic Design Services

7.0

7.0

7.0

541490 Other Specialized Design Services

7.0

7.0

7.0

541511 Custom Computer Programming Services

25.0

25.5

25.5

541512 Computer Systems Design Services

25.0

25.5

25.5

541513 Computer Facilities Management Services

25.0

25.5

25.5

541519 Other Computer Related Services

25.0

25.5

25.5

541611 Administrative Management  and General Management Consulting Services

7.0

14.0

14.0

541612 Human Resources Consulting Services

7.0

14.0

14.0

541613 Marketing Consulting Services

7.0

14.0

14.0

541614 Process, Physical  Distribution and Logistics Consulting Services

7.0

14.0

14.0

541618 Other Management Consulting Services

7.0

14.0

14.0

541620 Environmental Consulting Services

7.0

14.0

14.0

541690 Other Scientific and Technical Consulting Services

7.0

14.0

14.0

541720 Research and Development in the Social Sciences and Humanities

7.0

19.0

19.0

541810 Advertising Agencies

7.0

14.0

14.0

541820 Public Relations Agencies

7.0

14.0

14.0

541830 Media Buying Agencies

7.0

14.0

14.0

541840 Media Representatives

7.0

14.0

14.0

541850 Display Advertising

7.0

14.0

14.0

541860 Direct Mail Advertising

7.0

14.0

14.0

541870 Advertising Material Distribution Services

7.0

14.0

14.0

541890 Other Services Related to Advertising

7.0

14.0

14.0

541910 Marketing Research and Public Opinion Polling

7.0

7.0

14.0

541921 Photography Studios Portrait

7.0

7.0

7.0

541922 Commercial Photography

7.0

7.0

7.0

541930 Translation and Interpretation Services

7.0

7.0

7.0

541940 Veterinary Services

7.0

7.0

7.0

541990 All Other Professional, Scientific and Technical Services

7.0

7.0

14.0

811212 Computer and Office Repair and Maintenance

25.0

25.5

25.5

“The United States Small Business Administration (SBA) is increasing 37 small business size standards for 34 industries and three sub-industries (“exceptions” in SBA’s table of small business size standards) in North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) Sector 54, Professional, Technical, and Scientific Services. SBA is also increasing the one size standard in NAICS Sector 81, Other Services, which it did not review in 2010. These size standards are all receipts based. SBA is retaining the current standards for the remaining industries in NAICS Sector 54. This rule also removes “Map Drafting” as the “exception” to NAICS 541340, Drafting Services. As part of its ongoing comprehensive review of all size standards, SBA has evaluated every receipts based size standard in NAICS Sector 54 as well as the one previously unreviewed size standard in NAICS Sector 81 to determine whether the existing standards should be retained or revised.” – from Federal Register

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Notes on the International Council on Women’s Business Leadership inaugural meeting

Tuesday morning, January 24, 2012, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hosted the inaugural meeting for the International Council on Women’s Business Leadership.  Members were invited by Secretary Clinton and include leaders of American and foreign public and private sector organizations.


For those that could not watch the live broadcasting, WBDC marketing assistant, Bethany Hartley has provided some notes from the meeting’s discussion.

First, what is the International Council on Women’s Business Leadership?

“The Secretary of State’s International Council on Women’s Business Leadership (ICWBL) serves the United States Government in a solely advisory capacity concerning major issues and problems in international business and economic policy, including the effective integration of business interests and women’s economic empowerment into overall foreign policy; the role and limits of international economic institutions from a gender-specific perspective; and the Department of State’s role in advancing and promoting the role of women in a competitive global economy.”

-from the Secretary of State website

Objective for the meeting:

“What are the ideas that we can promote that can help women be able to fulfill their own potential. How do we widen that circle of prosperity which will lift the entire global economy – women and men alike – and how do we, within our own organizations, do more to train and promote women to positions of leadership?”  Secretary Clinton

The meeting targeted issues currently impacting countries around the world.  Hot topics included:

  1. Child Care Options
    For Sweden’s Maud Olofsson one of the main problems hindering financial growth and business leadership for women is the lack of child care options available to women.  By sharing parenting duties between parents and allowing for child care to be more easily accessible and financially feasible, women would not be derailed from their career.  South Africa’s Wend Luhabe affirmed these challenges.
  2. Insurance Offerings for Women
    South Africa’s Wendy Luhabe also raised the issue of insurance offerings for women.  It is Luhabe’s belief that women are not covered nearly enough, stating examples of families being destroyed from having to repay medical bills when children fall sick and a need for further coverage for women when a divorce takes place.
  3. Building Wealth Through Sustainable Credit and Grassroots Programming
    India’s Meera Sanyal discussed how there is no overt gender discrimination in India, yet constantly changing policies for credit cause confusion.  There is a need for basic savings methods because if women keep the money in their home they will spend it on their family.Jamaica’s M. Audrey Hinchcliffe discussed her country’s problem being that of a small, wealthy few control the less fortunate larger population.  It’s a pyramid that needs to be altered by implementing programs to provide training and financial assistance to the large base and thus creating a more stable economic standing for the whole country.
  4. Innovative Program Models
    Wanda Engel, Executive President, Unibanco Institute, discussed Brazil’s Bolsa Familia program where funding is provided for families with children as long as children are attending school on a consistent basis.  Brazil has a high number of uneducated people which creates a poor economic situation.  With this program, children are becoming educated and potentially able to achieve a higher economic standing than their parents through professional work.  Many of the other countries representatives at the meeting expressed interest in adapting the Bolsa Familia program in their homelands.
  5. Women on Boards – About 3% of United States CEOs are women

“One fact is already clear, including more women at the top of organizations, businesses and the public sector- it’s not just the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do.  It’s good for business, it’s good for results” –Secretary Clinton

Overall, the meeting was inspiring and thought provoking.  Essential topics were discussed including access to capital, women helping women and getting more business education out there to promote women in leadership roles.  These are all issues we look at every day at the WBDC and the reason we continue to provide the support we do for women.

What do you think?  Did you watch the meeting?  What would you ask the members?  Most importantly, do you think anything will come of this council?

Supplemental Links:

Cherie Booth Blair’s foundation: MWomen Initiative

Secretary Clinton’s September speech at APEC

List of Members: ICWBL Council Members

Introduction of Meeting: Secretary Clinton

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Four Follow Ups to Your Business Plan – Group Consultations

You developed an idea.  You researched the field you want to break into. You have support of friends and family. You wrote your business plan. You revised your business plan. Your personal finances are in order.  Now what? Has anyone read your plan? Have you met with any banks to discuss funding? Where are you in your planning, really?

If your face has become a scrunched up question mark, maybe you should consider group consultations.  A group consultation is a great way to bounce your ideas off of other peers in the same situation as you, with the help of an experienced business counselor to keep you on track.  Here are the four reasons why group consultations might be just what your business plan needs:

  1. Your Cloud: Just like Apple developed the iCloud, you develop the BusinessCloud.  You have already created a cluster of ideas, notes and projections for your business, and it’s all floating around with a clear path seemingly hard to find.  By creating this cloud of content you are laying the foundation for great ideas to come, and with the help of others, you can pull out the good and toss the bad.  It’s amazing to see what people have floating in their minds, and group discussions can focus in on the ideas that could make your business great!
  2. Building Business Relationships: Is your business going to do business with other businesses?  Chances are at some point it will.  Whether you’re knitting scarves to sell at a farmer’s market or creating software to save the world, you’re going to deal with other business people.   Being involved with a group can teach you how to perform in the business world.  You can learn to see the big picture of how others may see your business and what’s out there for businesses in the current economic climate.
  3. Feedback: One of the biggest perks of group consultations is the quantity and quality amount of feedback you’ll receive. Instead of one business counselor giving you an opinion, you’re getting the reactions of multiple people.  Unbiased opinions are hard to come by in this day and age, especially with technology.  People are often looking for feedback online about their businesses. For instance Yelp! is an entire website devoted to feedback.  However, when you’re starting out, you may not want all the feedback to be public, nor do you want feedback clearly coming from competitors seeking to bring you down.  The controlled setting of an in person small group is ideal for start-ups.  Be sure to feed off the feedback, don’t just take answers from others and run, give your opinion about their business plans too.
  4. Expert Knowledge: Typically speaking, group consultations have a facilitator who is knowledge in business development.  They are a great resource for planning out the next steps of your plan.  Often times it’s difficult to find a setting where you can be comfortable bouncing ideas around, and it’s important to find the right fit for you.  Maybe it’s at a Bank Branch or maybe…the Women’s Business Development Center.

It’s critical to see all sides of your business box, not just your perspective.  Keep these four things in mind as you work on your business plan.  And if you’re looking to join us for a group consult, the next one takes place January 11, 2012 at the WBDC in Chicago, call us at 312.853.3477 x 0.  Oh, did I mention they’re free and limited to five people?  Not sure if you’re ready for group consultations? Download this free resource, “Developing Your Business Plan” from the WBDC.

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Join the WBDC in Supporting Small Business Saturday

What is Small Business Saturday?

Although Small Business Saturday is well known amongst small businesses, consumers may be in the dark when it comes to this economy-boosting event.  #smallbizsat is November 26th this year, the Saturday immediately following Black Friday and the weekend before Cyber Monday.  (Don’t forget to enjoy Thanksgiving in the midst of all this!)  The purpose of Small Business Saturday is to stimulate locally-owned small businesses and in turn help the economy.  Simply put, if you’re a consumer: SHOP! If you’re a small business: PARTICIPATE!

Small Business Owners

Participating in Small Business Saturday is made easy for you.  Powered by American Express, Small Business Saturday’s website provides marketing materials, easy how-to guides and even an app!  Make the day lucrative for your customers.  Check out all the materials here. The WBDC has partnered with Women Impacting Public Policy to support Small Business Saturday, and we’re doing so gladly as everyone benefits when locally owned businesses are supported, (we are particularly fond of women owned businesses).

From Small Business Saturday Facebook: “According to the 2011 Small Business Saturday Consumer Spend Survey,61% of consumers plan to shop at locally-owned clothing and accessories stores on November 26.”

Consumers

Small Business Saturday has this great feature on their Facebook Page.  Simply type in your zip code, and they’ll give you a list of registered participants to visit.  What’s in it for you?  Look at it like this.  Buying a dress from your local boutique puts money directly into the woman’s pocket who just rang you up.  You just helped pay for the shop owner’s groceries, buy her kids school clothes and put gas in her tank.  For every $100 spent at a locally-owned business, $68 stays in the local economy, compared to only $43 if spent at a national chain.*  Doesn’t that just make you feel better about your spending?

Are you participating?  As a consumer or a small business owner, or both?  Let us know in the comments below!

*Source: Civic Economics study on Grand Rapids, Michigan – Sept. 2008

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SBA CAPLines Program Revamped

On November 4, 2011, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced it has revamped its CAPLines Loan Program to better correspond with the lending practices of most banks.  Changes are a result of suggestions to improve the process from lenders at over 150 banks.   “These changes were based on conversations with lenders in all 50 states.  We listened to them and created a program that works for small businesses and lenders alike,” says Steve Smits, SBA associate administrator for capital access.

The purpose of the CAPSLines program is to assist small business owners in meeting their short-term and cyclical working-capital needs.   The program addresses five specific lines of credit: seasonal, contract, builders, standard-asset based and small-asset based.

The CAPLines Loan Program began in the early 1990’s, but due to regulations and procedures that required lenders to diverge from their standard lending practices, the program only produced about 1,300 loans in 15 years.   In comparison, other SBA loan programs produced nearly 40 times that amount.

Previous CAPSLines Program rules did not adequately address the needs of smaller businesses requesting temporary capital for projects requiring the purchase of the materials necessary to fulfill contracts.  The rules also had no provision to handle the needs of small businesses that are run virtually and have no physical site.

The hope is that the changes in the CAPSLines Program will, without delay, create an environment for small businesses to compete for contracts on an equal plane with larger businesses.  “More than half the people who work in this country either own small businesses or work in them, and more than two-thirds of the net jobs created come from small businesses, so your work is vital to our prosperity,” SBA administrator Karen Mills said of the program.  “We can’t wait around for Congress to act or for things to get better by themselves. We need to do the blocking and tackling for small businesses and work hand-in-hand with them to generate success.”

Will these changes benefit your small business?  Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

Kristin Travis   Kristin Travis is Program Assistant at the WBDC.

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