Reading Other People's Holiday Cards

Reading Other People's Holiday Cards

One of my favourite parts of the behind the scenes operations of Nova Box, is hand writing in the cards that go in the boxes. Although we do have some loyal ex-pat customers who have bought each season’s box for themselves; the majority of our online customers are folks who are buying boxes as gifts and having them shipped directly to their friends and family throughout Canada, the US and abroad. 

I just love reading the heartfelt notes that people ask to have included with their gift.

Since 2018 is quickly coming to an end, here are a few themes that I have seen in the cards so far this year.

“Congratulations on (new house/new baby/big promotion/etc.)”2018 seemed like a big year for new houses and babies! These are two major life milestones, and sometimes it’s hard to properly celebrate when there are miles in between. I saw a few cards that said “congratulations on your new little one, can’t wait to meet them in a few weeks!” – very sweet!

“Sending you this in hopes you will move back ASAP.”I actually love the tone of these boxes. Often times people poke fun of the fact that their loved one has moved away and are missing out on the Nova Scotia lifestyle/experience. Messages like “I bet Alberta doesn’t have real Salt Water Taffy” or, “goodluck finding a decent Donair at 2 am” (although King of Donair is rapidly expanding West) have caused me to actually ‘laugh out loud.’ Even though there is often a layer of sarcasm involved with these boxes – the love is still very much present!

“Wish you were, but since you are not - here is a piece of home to brighten your day.”This is definitely the most common narrative in the cards. Whether it’s a special occasion (like the holidays) or just because, these boxes often get sent in place of being together during a special time. These are my favorite boxes to send, because I can tell the person on the other end of the card is really going to feel that connection to home when they open it.

As someone who lived away from home a few times, I know how nice it feels to get a little care package in the mail.  I think I would have liked to receive a Nova Box from someone from home, especially if it had a handwritten card that said “miss you, love you, come home soon!”

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Allyson England Blog Start with Why Nova Scotia Made Gift Boxes

Start with Why

I’m currently reading (OK fine I’ll be honest - I’m currently listening to) Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why.” It’s all about how great leaders inspire, and what differentiates companies that lead with “why” versus “what.”

I’m still in the early part of the book, but something that struck me was the way in which great companies inspire long term loyalty instead of short term transactions.

He uses the concept of the “golden circle” that is, the tendency for companies to base their marketing messages around three levels of information – WHAT, HOW and WHY. WHAT is information on the outer circle, and WHY is information on the inner circle (ie. at the core).

Most companies tend to start with WHAT and end with WHY. He argues you should start with WHY.

He uses Apple as an example of a company that very effectively communicates their why, and as a result, has enjoyed prolonged success as a market leader in innovation, loyalty and sales.

If, Apple was like most companies, their marketing message would start with the WHAT and it would sound like this:

“We make great computers. They are beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly. Wanna buy one?”

Instead, he says that Apple consistently starts with WHY, and their messaging sounds more like this: 

“Everything we do; we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly. We just happen to make great computers. Wanna buy one?”

This is so interesting, because people don’t follow or support companies necessarily based on what they do; but why they do it, or how the person/company makes them feel.

I got to thinking; how can I apply this to my own business? 

Currently my tagline on Instagram says: “Carefully curated gift boxes filled with Nova Scotia treasures.”

That sure sounds like a WHAT description to me. 

Perhaps I should start with why, and it should sound something more like:

“Everything we do; we believe in sharing love from Nova Scotia. We believe in helping people feel like home, no matter where they are. The way we share love from Nova Scotia is by creating carefully curated gift boxes filled with treasures from home. Wanna buy one? 

What do you think? Is this an improvement? What would you say about yourself or your business if you started with WHY instead of WHAT?

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East Coast Lifestyle Nova Box Nova Scotia Gift Boxes

Meet: Eastcoast Lifestyle

The DNA of East Coast Lifestyle is simple: it’s about being proud of where you’re from.

In March of 2013, Alex MacLean, a senior Business student at Acadia University was asked to start a temporary business for an Entrepreneurship class project. With an $800 loan from his dad and a passion to rep his coast, Alex produced his first 30 East Coast Lifestyle hoodies and sold them to his closest friends. Using the proceeds from the first batch, ECL began distribution from the trunk of Alex’s car and on his mom’s front lawn for several months until the birth of the popular anchor logo.

We spoke with Alex about how his business started, and what advice he would give to other budding entrepreneurs.

What inspired you to start your business? I wanted to create a clothing company to represent the passion East Coasters have for their coast. I realized no other brands have done anything like it so I wanted to create a brand people would be truly passionate about. Something for everyone no matter what their age so they can be proud of where they’re from. 

Tell us about your 4 year old self. I was an entrepreneur as a kid - always doing anything I could to make some money (i.e.: shovelling driveways, yard work, etc). I always liked to stay busy. At age 4, I wanted to be a professional hockey player and played sports my entire childhood. 

What do you know now, that you wish you knew when you started your business? Be sure to trademark your idea before talking to others about it. Get feedback from friends & family you trust but never ask the public before your idea is officially protected. Once you have a trademark, you are able to fight off knock offs or imitations that might be a threat to your business.


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Learn More About: Rousseau Chocolatier

Learn More About: Rousseau Chocolatier

Julien Rousseau-Dumarcet and Nathalie Morin met and fell in love in Wakefield, QC: he; a Frenchmen with a passion for chocolate; she, a young hospitality professional with a love for travel. 

Together they embarked on an adventure around Europe until ultimately settling in Halifax. Why Halifax? Because it offered a great quality of life, has many European influences and is conveniently located between Ontario and France!

With over 15 years of experience, Julian uses only the finest quality chocolate and ingredients - locally and seasonally sourced as much as possible. Everything is made on site and production can be seen through the viewing bay window in their shop.

We spoke with Nathalie to learn more about their thriving business.

What inspired you to start your business? My husband had been a chocolatier and pastry chef for a few years when we met. At that time, it was only a distant dream to one day open our own chocolate shop. Our quest to gain experience and remain together as a couple, led us to live and work in Canada, France, England and Scotland over the course of 5 years before opening Rousseau Chocolatier in 2014.  

Tell us about your 4-year-old self. Wow, 4 year old me? That's a fun question!! I was very carefree, rambunctious and strong willed. I was the second born in a family of 2 kids and I was very fortunate to grow up in a big house on a quiet street in the woods. My days were spent at home with my mother, playing in streams, tree houses and getting dirty! I wanted to be independent and loved accomplishing things on my own. There were a lot of messes and bruises that occurred as a result but overall, I wanted to grow up fast and do things that everyone else was doing.

What do you know now, that you wish you knew when you started your business? What I know now versus when we first started is that there's a wealth of information to help guide any aspiring entrepreneur. Whether it be provincial/federal government programs and grants, local business associations or even knowledgeable bookkeepers! I wish I could have thought to utilize these valuable resources when we started out.

I also think that running a business is a constant evolving experience. With over 4 years under our belts, we still get thrown curve balls all the time. You really learn how to roll with the punches and problem solve on a daily basis. You also learn how to wear ALL the hats; leadership roles, time management skills, marketing exec, photographer, receptionist, customer service expert, accountant, electrician, plumber, you name it!! And with all that, you still need to make money. It's true what they say, running your own business is not for the faint-hearted. We put our heads down, plow through every day and hope it will pay off and we'll be able to reap the fruit of our labour by providing a bright future for our family.

Want to read more about Rousseau Chocolatier? Check out our Spring Blog


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Learn More About: Big Cove Foods

Learn More About: Big Cove Foods

In 2012, the owners behind Big Cove Foods came out to Nova Scotia to take a break from their lives in Toronto. One month they said. Five years later, they are still in love with the people and beauty that is Nova Scotia. Living in the country has provided opportunities that living in the city just doesn't have, and farm-house country living inspired them to dig down to the basics and make things from scratch.

Big Cove Foods’ driving force is to provide you with a product that will spark creativity in your own kitchen as moving to the country has done for them. Whether it is on the stove or in a cocktail glass, they provide you with a great quality product worthy of your kitchen.

I spoke with owners, Dave and Sarah to find out building their delicious business.

What inspired you to start your business? Taking the leap from big city to country living both forced and inspired us to cook more at home and experiment with ingredients. This mission created a new spark in both of us and we wanted to share that revelation with others. Through our product line and online recipes, we want to inspire people to enjoy cooking more at home.  

Tell us about your 4-year-old selves. When Sarah was quite young, she wanted to be a roof repair woman, because hanging out on the roof is just so much fun! (She does not regret her life decisions).  Around 4 years old, I (Dave) was the kind of boy who had no problem telling my dinner hosts if something was over cooked or needed more salt. I’m still not one to keep my opinions to myself! 

It’s interesting to look back at who you were, to where life has taken you. I have always had a passion for food, and Sarah’s came later on in life - about 11 years ago when we met.

What do you know now, that you wish you knew when you started your business? You are capable of way more than you think you are.

Want to read more about Big Cove Foods? Check out our Spring Blog.

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Meet: Nova Scotia Fisherman

Meet: Nova Scotia Fisherman

Nova Scotia Fisherman was built on the inspiration to create quality products and employment opportunities in rural Canada. This is evident in their ingredients and results in premium body care. Sourcing local innovators and seeking out products close to the earth and shores, Nova Scotia Fisherman is aware of the landscape, the environment and their customer’s health. 

We spoke with Les Falconer, Owner of Nova Scotia Fisherman, to learn more about how this great company began.

What inspired you to start your business? I have been in business in some form from a very young age. I worked for my parents in the restaurant business as a child. I liked the challenges, and I liked seeing results and rewards from effort.  I am a perfectionist which makes being in business incredibly difficult by times, particularly with the many variables that are not in your direct control.

Tell us about your 4 year old self? I was a runt as a 4 year old! Quiet and shy. Ambitious and humble. I was curious, but cautious so I wouldn’t get in too much trouble. My father was in the RCMP and we moved every 2 years. I remember wanting to be in a uniform just like my dad.

I was born and began school in very small towns and ports in Newfoundland. When we did move to the mainland I clearly remember being teased and laughed at because I had such a heavy Newfoundland Accent - she still comes to after a few drinks!

What do you know now, that you wish you knew when you started your business? I have always managed and operated by example. I believe it's important to be the first one at work, to out-work your team members, and to eat last. I quickly learned that not everyone is like that nor do they have that make-up. You can’t judge them for that - you must work within THEIR capabilities because more times then not they have great things to bring to the table regardless of YOUR OWN ethics, habits and drive!

I also learned a few other major lessons: life isn’t always fair, the bank doesn’t sympathize on “intentions”, the nights leading up to payroll can be sleepless and stressful and finally - the immense power of the words “THANK YOU.”

To learn more about Les and Nova Scotia Fisherman, check out this blog.

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Meet: Halifax Paper Hearts

Meet: Halifax Paper Hearts

Halifax Paper Hearts is a greeting card company that believes in fairy tales & snail mail... and they believe in cultivating closeness through the written expression of love, celebration, encouragement & grace. Though perhaps best known for their adorable greeting cards, Halifax Paper Hearts also designs a selection of home decor and gift items (like the sweet lobster pins in our Summer Box!). 

We spoke with Owner and Designer, Stefanie MacDonald, to learn more about her heart-led business.

What inspired you to start your business? Our journey began on a trip to Calgary, Alberta to celebrate the wedding of two women we love dearly. In recognition of their very special day, we wanted to give them a simple, quirky, contemporary note card. After visiting a few large department stores (we did not have time to hunt for lovely boutiques that afternoon), we were only able to find cards featuring champagne glasses, wedding cakes, and “bride & groom” illustrations on them.  Our first design, “Let’s Grow Old Together” was inspired by this love story; a special card to celebrate the sacred experience of growing old together.

As I followed my business where it wanted to go, my heart nudged me to quit my corporate dream job, hire my besties, and create and share our collections of heart-made goodies with the world.

Tell us about your 4-year-old self My 4-year-old self was very girly, opinionated, and not shy at all. I had a room full of unicorns and rainbows, and had a mind of my own. I refused to wear pants or shorts, and would only wear dresses or skirts because I was convinced that pants were only for boys. I also got very upset when I had to wear my hair in a bun, because I was sure that people would think I was a boy. I was told often that I was “bold”, ”mouthy” and “bossy” by the adults in my life. Looking back, I really don’t think I was rude or obnoxious, but I think I just felt like being honest most of the time, and didn’t want to sit in the corner in ribbons and curls smiling quietly. I didn’t have many inhibitions about sharing what I thought with people at that time. We have many home videos of me as “reporter Stefanie”, reporting live from our living room, and kitchen, and really anywhere else my mom would follow me – narrating our lives moment by moment.

What do you know now, that you wish you knew when you started your business? What I know now, is that there is no rule book, road map, check list, or 10 step guide to success in business, and that you need to learn to trust yourself in order to move forward. My business has pushed me to new levels of vulnerability, self-sacrifice, and personal success – but has also tested my limits in ways that I didn’t think possible.  Starting and growing a business truly is a roller coaster of events, emotions and outcomes. The highs are higher than I have ever felt, but the unfortunately, that also means that the lows are lower.  

No level of productivity, number of checkmarks on your to-do list, or volume of sales will ever replace the fullness you feel when you’re focused on the things you value most. I’m 3 years into my business now, and I have refocused my energy completely after learning this lesson the hard way. I am now focused on doing work that makes me feel great, but I have also redefined what success means to me. I don’t hustle anymore. I don’t rush. I don’t sacrifice my personal needs for the needs of my business anymore. Success to me now means so much more than a career driven search for external validation. I know now that my health, relationships, how I spend my time, and maintaining a sense of validation from within -  all contribute to having a fuller heart, a sense of purpose, and a happier life.

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Meet: Tidal Salt

Meet: Tidal Salt

Tidal Salt started on a warm summer day when a husband tried to make a unique gift for his wife. After finishing a small batch of sea salt made from a nearby beach, it just made sense that this gift should be shared with the world.

Tidal Salt harvests fleur de sel and flavoured sea salts directly from Nova Scotia’s rugged coastline so that you can have a little piece of Nova Scotia on your dinner table.  

We spoke with Owner Colin Duggan about how the business started, and what he has learned along the way.

What inspired you to start your business? Throughout my life I've had an almost comedic ability to surround myself with people who have had no problem taking the best of me while at the same time making sure I felt that I didn't belong or that I wasn't good enough. It took me a good number of years to learn that really vital lesson that we are a product of not only the people we have around us, but also of our own willingness to trust in our instincts. That led me to Lawerencetown Beach two summers ago and my first little batch of sea salt. I tinkered with my salt making "hobby" for a few months and it felt really good. It was then that I realized that I was hearing a lot of people around me picking away at my little idea, that I wouldn't follow through, that it was a waste of time or that it wouldn't work out. Before that point in my life, I would have listened to them and let those voices ruin a perfectly good thing. However, those voices didn't match up with the feeling that had that I was doing something important for myself and my family.

I took that conflict between positive and negative and used it to motivate me into this entrepreneurial life - and things will never be the same again!

What were you like when you were 4 years old? I've never had a good memory of my childhood, it's really a blur to me. What I do know is that I was always a kid whose enthusiasm and willingness to trust others led me to feel a little left out; but it also fueled a sense of earnest, intense curiosity that stays with me to this day. I definitely know that I was absolutely in love with dinosaurs, although it wasn't until I saw Jurassic Park a few years later that it turned into a full on obsession. I remember a visit from Mr. Dressup to my preschool and that I was really jazzed that I taught myself how to scoot my chair into the lunch table with just my feet and without someone helping me push it in.

What do you know now, that you wish you knew when you started your business? I really wish I knew when to take the time and plan out a decision and when to simply take action. Getting a small business off the ground is almost entirely about action over deliberation, at least in the beginning. A new business needs a foundation before you can really start to build anything, and there's rarely a foundation that you can "plan" into existence.

The small business entrepreneur needs to decide that it's time to act, roll up their sleeves and start getting things done. Part of that is accepting that mistakes will be made, but they are stepping stones that, if you take the time to learn from them, only make the business stronger. I've literally been knee deep in Bay of Fundy mud flats in a failed attempt to collect saltwater, it was thoroughly discouraging but ultimately led me to take the time to learn what the business needed me to learn and that knowledge led me to find my favorite salt harvesting spots that I still use today! My business needed me to act, learn from my action and use that knowledge to be better.

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Meet: Inkwell Boutique

Meet: Inkwell Boutique

Inkwell Boutique is a modern handmade boutique and letterpress studio with an abundant selection of specialty printed paper products and handmade delights made with love, by artists from around the corner and across the world.  Inkwell also offers custom letterpress printing of personal stationery, business cards, event invitations, posters, and art prints.

Andrea Rahal started Inkwell in 2011; it has evolved into a multifaceted business that includes a retail and online store, letterpress studio, and wholesale provider.

We asked Andrea three questions so we could get to know her business better.

What inspired you to start your business? I’ve always considered myself an artist, I even have memories of being three years old and creating things! Going to art school was a natural progression for me. Both my partner Daniel and I are graphic designers and after attending NSCAD, we fell in love with letterpress and decided to get our own printing press. I always knew I would open a store that sold handmade products. I also love Nova Scotia made items, so I thought having a store where I could showcase other artists’ products alongside of my own creations, was the perfect fit. Inkwell has evolved to be more than just cards and prints, it is a multi-faceted business with a retail and online store, letterpress studio and wholesale offering.

What were you like when you were 4 years old? My early childhood was a major part of the evolution to where and what I am today. I remember vividly that I had a keen interest in books – I loved to look at the pictures and be read to. I really loved my toys, which I tended to collect and take special care of. I was quite imaginative dreaming up places and things both on my own and when playing with friends. I spent quite a lot of my time creating, drawing, colouring and painting things, often with my mother, who was very creative in her own right.

From a very early age, I considered myself an artist and it was definitely what I wanted to be when I grew up.

Even by this time, I took great pride in my individuality. In particular, I was adamant that if I did not want to do something, I would not do it. Which continues to be a philosophy today.

What do you know now, that you wish you knew when you started your business? At the business planning stage, I envisioned implementing all facets of the business (retail, wholesale, consignment and custom) right from the start and hitting the ground running with everything in place. Having been in business for over 7 years, I have learned that there are specific times when focus is required for a particular facet of the business. There's a season for everything. As a small business owner, with limited staffing and financial resources, I ultimately learned that I needed to build momentum and stability in one facet at a time, before adding another, to avoid burnout.

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Meet: Power Designs

Meet: Power Designs

Power Designs is a sibling duo that grew out of a love of hobby woodwork. Mary-Ellen and Graeme Power are proud Canadians from Halifax, and love to spread their prideful work across their beautiful country.

Each piece is handmade with love just for you. Their wood is carefully selected and handpicked to embrace the notches and wood grain. Imprecations is what makes each piece unique and special.

We spoke with Mary-Ellen to learn more about how Power Designs started, and what is next for this creative sibling duo.

What inspired you to start your business? We both enjoy working with our hands and creating; it’s something that comes natural to us. Graeme had been woodworking for a few years before I started, with a focus mostly on poker tables builds for friends. I was inspired to start woodwork after discovering a large community of women woodworkers through social media. At first, we just made things for ourselves but then we graduated to gifts for birthdays, weddings, baby showers, and more. It wasn’t until friends and family suggested (repeatedly) we sell our work that either of us had even considered to start our own business. We finally made the decision to open a Facebook page and that’s how it all began!

What has been the most exciting thing you have experienced to date since starting your business? The most exciting thing we have experienced is actually something that we experience almost every day - and that’s our clients’ reactions to our work. Their excitement and joy of seeing their custom piece is something that never gets old. 

What can we expect to see next? Our work is mostly custom so almost every piece is like a brand new product - but we do have a few ideas up our sleeves that I think our clientele will love.  We are also looking to expand to a bigger work space within the next year. 

Mary-Ellen and Graeme make beautiful pieces. In addition to the custom maple cutting board they made for Nova Box, they make furniture, accessories and décor for your home. It’s incredible to see what they have created from their workshop in Graeme’s house, and I can’t wait to see what they can do as they expand their business!

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Meet: Big Cove Foods

Meet: Big Cove Foods

In 2012, the owners behind Big Cove Foods came out to Nova Scotia to take a break from their lives in Toronto. One month they said. Five years later, they are still in love with the people and beauty that is Nova Scotia. Living in the country has provided opportunities that living in the city just doesn't have, and farm-house country living inspired them to dig down to the basics and make things from scratch.

Big Cove Foods’ driving force is to provide you with a product that will spark creativity in your own kitchen as moving to the country has done for them. Whether it is on the stove or in a cocktail glass, they provide you with a great quality product worthy of your kitchen.

I spoke with owners, Dave and Sarah to find out how Nova Scotia became their home.

What inspired you to start your business? Taking the leap from big city to country living both forced and inspired us to cook more at home and experiment with ingredients. This mission created a new spark in both of us and we wanted to share that revelation with others. Through our product line and online recipes, we want to inspire people to enjoy cooking more at home.  

What has been the most exciting thing you have experienced to date since starting your business? Building our commercial kitchen is still up there in terms of being the most exciting experience. From working out of a home kitchen to a space dedicated to the growing business was a milestone in our company and personal lives. The building itself is constantly changing as we update, expand and watch it grow with us.  

What can we expect to see next? The best thing about our line of products is that there are endless possibilities. New concoctions are tested in our kitchen continuously, whether it be a new recipe or a new product. You can always find something going on at the Big Cove Foods kitchen!

I just love hearing about people who move here and make Nova Scotia their home. Dave and Sarah have done an awesome job infusing their passion for good food, with their love for helping people spark creativity in their own kitchen.


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Meet: Acadian Maple

Meet: Acadian Maple

Acadian Maple Products is a family owned and operated business located in Upper Tantallon. Involved in the maple industry in Nova Scotia for over 30 years, Acadian Maple is the largest purchaser and processor of Nova Scotia produced maple syrup. Exporting to markets worldwide, and constantly developing new products, Acadian Maple continues to grow with their agri-tourism center and retail shop seeing in excess of 30,000 visitors a year.

We asked William Allaway, Owner of Acadian Maple, to reflect on his business.

What inspired you to start your business? Acadian Maple started as a hobby back in 1986 by my parents, who were making maple syrup out of our home and selling it to local gift shops. The business was originally a seasonal operation, as both my mom and dad were teachers. My father taught me and my sister how to make maple syrup, and we would help out during summer breaks from school. When I graduated from university, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do – so I decided to take over the family business. We bought a piece of land, and started scaling our production. In 2002 we converted from producing to processing, and in 2007 we had two facilities in Wentworth and Tantallon.

What has been the most exciting thing you have experienced to date since starting your business? Our business has given us the opportunity to meet some very interesting people in the food industry, and we have built incredible relationships over the years.  What started in our two car garage, has grown into a global export company with a large production facility, agri-tourism operation and gift shop. We work with small producers to help them process and sell to larger global chains in Canada, the US and Europe. When I look back on our growth over the years, it appears to have happened strategically and in sequence. We have certainly experienced roadblocks and setbacks, but we have become very good at quickly pivoting and course correcting. For any business, it’s important to be nimble and remain focused on what you do best.

What can we expect to see next? Admittedly over the last few years we started to stray from what we do best. We had to learn how to say no, as saying yes to everything can have damaging effects. Last year, we started pulling it back to our core business – which is maple, confection, jams and jellies. We have exciting new products in our R&D pipeline, and some great collaborations coming up. 

It was really great to chat with William, and learn how he has infused innovation into a typically more traditional business. He stressed the importance of remaining true to your core business, while creating opportunities within it. Acadian Maple is further proof that we can operate a globally competitive business, right here in Nova Scotia.

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