Feature Friday! Aurora Tights

Parker, Rickerby and Snead from Terp Startup Accelerator in summer of 2018.

DC: What’s your name(s), major(s), minor, and graduation year(s)?

Parker: Sydney Parker, Communication and Public Relations major, Women’s Studies Certificate, Spring 2018; Imani Rickerby, Public Health Science major, Spring 2017; Jasmine Snead, Government and Politics, African American Studies Certificate, Spring 2018, MBA/MPP 2021.

DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup?

Parker: Aurora Tights designs inclusive athletic apparel and hosiery for dancers and ice skaters of ALL skin tones and ALL sizes. We are fully black women owned and seek to increase the diversity of all performance sports through our products and philanthropic initiatives throughout the year.

DC: At what point did you know you wanted to create your own startup?

Parker: Growing up as a dancer I was rarely able or advised to wear tights and other apparel that matched my skin tone color. In 2018, my cofounders and former skating coaches noticed a similar phenomenon happening with their young skaters and we vowed to end this cycle of disempowerment. Therefore we created Aurora Tights to make sure ALL athletes could perform in color.

DC: What or who is your biggest influence for your startup?

Parker: The biggest influencers for our startup are the black and brown dancers and ice skaters who have paved the way for athletes like ourselves to fall in love with the sports we have dedicated most of our lives to. Athletes such as Misty Copeland, Surya Bonaly and many more were the inspiration for so many of our tight shades and we later named each of our shades after our former teammates and students who continue to inspire us to this day.

DC: In the new virtual world, how has your focus or ideas changed?

Parker: We are dedicated to meeting our customers where they are at, which is mostly at home now, and keeping them motivated to still go after their athletic passions. At the end of last summer we partnered with five dance and ice skating non-profits who work to increase diversity and inclusion policies within these sports areas to raise money for their year-round initiatives. With the help and support of our community we were able to raise $13,000 for black and brown skaters and dancers to help them stay in the sports that they love!

DC: What updates or significant accomplishments can you share with us about your company from the last six months?

Parker: Over the last six months, we were able to raise $13,000 for black and brown dancers and ice skaters through the Perform In Color virtual showcase, move our items to a fulfillment center for faster shipping times, and get our story featured in Pop Sugar and Dance magazine!

DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?

Parker: Just start and activate on whatever idea is in your soul to build. Also, lean into the resources that are right at your fingertips! Within our two years we were able to raise $25,000 in startup funding with the help of the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship and continue to lean into the mentorship community they have there as well. It all started with a Dingman Friday!

For more information about Sydney Parker’s company, Aurora Tights, please visit the website here.

ANNOUNCING THE FEARLESS FOUNDERS: NEW VENTURE PRACTICUM 2021 COHORT

New Venture Practicum is one of the Dingman Center’s signature courses. Taught by Maryland Smith Clinical Professor Oliver Schlake during the Spring semester, students experiment with business models, revenue streams and go-to-market strategies. By the end of the three-credit course, some startups are securing their first customers and generating revenue, while others are working on a beta or pilot. In the final class, students pitch for seed funding to move their business forward.

Read on to learn more about this cohort’s exciting student founders and their businesses!

Athenus Financial Group – Cameron Williams ’21
Athenus enables young, amateur investors to engage with and trade foreign exchange. Built in features such as algorithms and a built in social media community helps new traders navigate the market and manage risk without the hassle of learning the market or hiring a mentor. 

Campus Gigs – Nataraj Shivaprasad ’21 & Sri Kanipakala ’24
We connect small businesses in College Park to students to foster symbiotic economic ties in the community. We achieve this through a platform where businesses can request gig services and post exclusive deals for students.

Cloud Closet – Vera Andreeva ’22
The Cloud Closet is designed to significantly decrease the amount of time it takes to get dressed. It simultaneously increases the amount of outfits through recommendations while keeping your closet the same size. Based on your style, it will recommend items that will keep you feeling stylish and on trend.

Compass Check – Paul Celius ’22 and Jourdan Wright ’21
Compass Check is about educating young adults on investing while being able to foster a great community on the platforms. The goal is for users to build a solid foundation and have the confidence to make educated financial decisions. 

Cruising Altitude – Alan Soclof ’22
Our mission at Cruising Altitude is to educate and engage the next generation of long term investors. We achieve our mission through a weekly newsletter that is engaging, entertaining, and contains original analysis on prospective investments.

Lace BarMaliha Bukhari ‘22

Lydia Liriano – Nishelle Oglesby ’21
Lydia Liriano is a luxury candle company that strives to give black women high-quality self-care experiences that benefit mental health.

Mindgrasp – Thai Cao ’23 and Rushil Joshi ’22
Mindgrasp.io is an AI-powered web app that can perform several complex text-related tasks for its users, including answering user questions based on text, summarizing, and paraphrasing. The service is primarily designed for students and academics.

PrommuniKarsh (Utkarsh) Patel

Quiet Storm Digital – Eric Ross ’21
We provide customer retention strategies for “diamond in the rough” nano-brands who yearn for a cult-like following. 

ScholarTrac – Casey Puentes ’23
ScholarTrac connects untapped high school talent with local businesses.

SoundBites – Mike Houser ’17, ’22 Graduate
SoundBites is a sound sommelier: using proven research to create immersive soundscapes, perfectly paired to tasting menus for an optimized fine dining experience.

Teacher Recommender System – Sander Schulhoff ’24
TRS automates and expedites the process of connecting high school students with their teacher recommenders for college.

Wardrobe – Gerald Berman ’23
Wardrobe is a digital wardrobe app for young professionals that will impact how individuals get dressed.

White Lotus – Tigh Eisenberg-Rayburn ’21
White Lotus focuses on helping athletes of all levels grow their mental and physical abilities to be more flexible, coordinated, and mobile.

E-Fund Recipients of Spring 2021

Through generous gifts from Carly Fiorina and Kevin Plank, the Dingman Center provides ad-hoc seed funding for University of Maryland startups, called the E-Fund. These nondilutive grants range from $250-$1000. Funding typically goes towards equipment purchases, website hosting, rapid prototyping, incorporation fees or any other costs that you see a barrier to getting an idea to market.

Check out this semester’s E-Fund recipients!

space


Edullo

Founders: Eric Patel ’21 and Esha Vangara

Edullo is a platform created by students for students. They connect scholars to freelancers to do their part of level the playing field in education. Their $500 E-Fund will go towards supporting and maintaining their data-heavy website platform.

Feature Friday! Gstyles

Goodness Ihekweme ’21 is all smiles modeling an outfit from the Gstyles collection.

DC: What’s your name, major, minor, and graduation year?

Ihekweme: My name is Goodness Ihekweme and I am majoring in Marketing and minoring in technology entrepreneurship. I graduate May 2021. 

DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup?

Ihekweme: Gstyles is a Women and Men fashion label that builds a gap within one’s self that feels lost. Gstyles creates one of a kind look that allows an individual to feel confident and unique. Gstyles is a place where everyone belongs even when you don’t feel like you do. 

DC: At what point did you know you wanted to create your own startup?

Ihekweme: Well it all started with my friend Mia. Mia always had a hard time finding clothes when we were little. Mia wasn’t the average woman size. She was a bit thicker in some areas and it was very hard for her to find clothes that were still stylish and unique in her size. I didn’t understand why it seemed like that for most brands and I didn’t like how it made my friend feel. I felt her pain and how much she didn’t feel included. At that moment, I wanted to create clothes for those who may feel excluded. Gstyles was put in place to build a person’s confidence in any shape, size, and form because they do belong. 

DC: What or who is your biggest influence for your startup?

Ihekweme: My parents. They were hardworking. They taught me that anything you want in this life, you can achieve by continuously working hard and never giving up. They always told me daily that “you can do anything you put your mind to” and this is what stuck with me everyday. So when it comes to my brand, giving up was never an option and persistence was the key.

DC: In the new virtual world, how has your focus or ideas changed?

Ihekweme: I started to now see the importance of comfy clothes. At first, when I started designing, I was only thinking of clothes that are meant to be worn outside for events or occasions. When the pandemic started, not a lot of people were going out anymore. That is when I noticed that people also shop for more relaxed and stay at home clothing. That is what inspired a bit  of my recent collection. I fell more in love with comfy apparel. 

DC: What updates or significant accomplishments can you share with us about your company from the last six months?

Ihekweme: I recently dropped my biggest  collection ever from my brand. This collection is called Genesis and you should all go check it out. It took about 7 ½  months in preparation which included designing the pieces, looking for fabric, curating a photoshoot, putting it on the site and creating my campaign. That was one of my biggest accomplishments in 2020 for my brand.  In addition, I was also blessed to have interns who willingly want to help the brand grow. In 2021 I finally have my dream team all thanks to God. 

DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?

Ihekweme: The advice that I would give to any aspiring entrepreneurs would be the same advice my parents gave to me. They told me that whatever you put your mind to, you can achieve. Don’t give up, keep going! Failure is not a bad thing and if you fail one time, try again. When you fail you only get better because now you know what not to do and now you can try something else. Lastly, trust in yourself, always go back to why you started your brand and think about the end goal to stay motivated. You got it! I am rooting for you all. 

For more information about Goodness Ihekwemes company, Gstyles, please visit the website here.

Feature Friday! The Sustainable Socialite

Sarah Lader ’20 displaying a collection from The Sustainable Socialite at a pop-up event.

DC: What’s your name, major, and graduation year?

Lader: My name is Sarah Lader and I graduated in December of 2020 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Family Science.

DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup?

Lader: The Sustainable Socialite curates bold, high quality, unique pre-loved pieces so that you can stand out from the crowd while standing up to fight against fast fashion. We focus on providing a cost-inclusive, size-inclusive collection to make ethically sourced vintage pieces available to anyone who is looking for a way to shop secondhand without sacrificing their love for expressing their individuality through fashion.

DC: At what point did you know you wanted to create your own startup?

Lader: While living abroad, I walked into a tiny vintage shop. For the first time in my life, I was able to not only fit into stunning pieces dating back to the 1940’s, I was able to afford them. I spent hours in the store trying on one-of-a-kind pieces that made me feel as though my individuality was finally shining through my fashion choices. They offered me a job there and I quickly fell in love with the community that surrounded inclusive vintage fashion. I wanted to bring the feelings I had when I first walked into that shop home with me, and foster a loving community around ethical shopping through curated pieces and a love of unique fashion.

DC: What or who is the biggest influence for your startup?

Lader: I really don’t think there is one specific person or thing that has influenced my startup, but rather the general people I surround myself with that have encouraged me to pursue my dream. My parents called me a “people collector” once because of my passion for listening to people’s stories and using their passions as inspiration to grow and learn. I have picked up those who are kind and inclusive, who care about our world, and who have believed in me throughout this journey. I have listened to what people want out of the fashion industry and what trends they wish they had the confidence to pull off, and adapted through that. I continue to be influenced by those I choose to have in my life because of their positive energy, whether that be my mom and dad who encourage me to try new things every day, my friends and boyfriend who have helped me achieve my dreams through successes and failures without ever doubting my capabilities, or my customers who take the time to let me know that they believe in my mission and give me the motivation to wake up every day, excited to share more of what I love with the world. I am incredibly lucky to have these support systems. They are the reason I will always continue to fight for what I believe in, and one of the things I truly believe in is The Sustainable Socialite’s potential.

DC: In the new virtual world, how has your focus or ideas changed?

Lader: I’m definitely someone who loves communicating with people in person and really getting to know my customers through face to face interactions, along with the opportunity to help style them in ways they may not have initially thought of. So in this new way of life, I have had to adapt to keep fostering those relationships. I write cards with every order, I have interactive stories asking for customer opinions and styling help, and I’ve been really focusing on ensuring I’m as active online as possible. I am also planning on launching an online personal stylist service to help people shop for different occasions, answer any questions they have, and assist them in planning bold outfits!

DC: What updates or significant accomplishments can you share with us about your company from the last six months?

Lader: In the past 6 months we have been part of Terp Startup Fellows, which has given us the opportunity to not only pursue more in person (outdoor, socially distanced) pop-up events, where we generate the most revenue, but also to purchase a trailer which we are currently renovating in order to do more events. We have increased from posting once a week to posting up to 7 items per day on our website and instagram, and are currently revamping our internship program to teach people about content creation, ethical fashion, and give students the opportunities to work firsthand with our startup!

DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?

Lader: You know your business more than anyone else. If you believe wholeheartedly in your idea, if you trust your process and believe in yourself, you can achieve great things. Not everything is going to work, but you can learn from your failures and become stronger through them. This is your vision and you have the ability to make it happen. Not every day is going to be easy, but the experience is unparalleled and the end result is worth it.

For more information about Sarah Lader’s company, The Sustainable Socialite, please visit the website here.

A Remembrance: Thomas (Tom) Savransky, Founder of Enly

This week our team received the tragic news that one of our Fearless Founders, Thomas (Tom) Savransky, died in a car crash at age 23. Tom was the founder of Enly, a sustainability conscientious fashion-tech startup that develops virtual fitting technologies. As a student, Tom participated in many of our Dingman Center programs while developing Enly from an idea to a business. In 2019, Tom’s hustle and commitment to taking Enly to market secured him a spot in our inaugural cohort of Terp Startup Fellows. Tom had the entrepreneurial spirit that we love to see in our student entrepreneurs and he will be terribly missed. The loss of Tom’s potential is heartbreaking. 

The below comment from Tom’s co-founder, Jonathan (Jonny) Schneider, memorializes his entrepreneurial drive best: 

“Tom’s spirit was one of an entrepreneur who was willing to do anything to make his business work. In his words, he was willing to sacrifice it all: health, friends, family, simple pleasures. In many ways, Tom embodied the story of the true entrepreneur, one who undergoes extreme sacrifice with little recognition. The mortal, real, industrious entrepreneur, rather than the glorified fantasy of the entrepreneur.”

Jonny shared with us that Tom’s favorite poem was “Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Robert Frost. We have included that poem below. 

In February 2020, The Diamondback, an independent student newspaper associated with the University of Maryland, published this story on Tom’s journey building Enly.

Our thoughts are with Tom’s family, friends and loved ones as they grieve this incredible loss. 

–Statement from Holly DeArmond, Managing Director, Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship on behalf of the Dingman Center team. 

Nothing Gold Can Stay

BY ROBERT FROST

Nature’s first green is gold,

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf’s a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.

Tom pitching in the Pitch Dingman Competition Semifinals in 2019. 

Enly team: Jonathan (Jonny) Schneider (left) and Tom Savransky (right) 

Jonny (left) and Tom (right) during an Enly business trip to Los Angeles, California

Fall 2020 Semester In Review

by Anisah Ingram

It seems like the time flew by, but here we are concluding the fall semester of 2020! As we close out this semester and students head out for winter break, let’s take a look back at all we did these past couple of months. 

Every Friday of the semester, we held virtual sessions of Dingman Fridays, where students were able to meet with guest advisors, subject matter experts and Dingman staff to listen to their business ideas and offer feedback. Through this program we engaged 32 unique advisors and were able to host more than 100 student sessions.

On October 22, we held a Ladies First Alumni Panel: Adapting During Times of Uncertainty. Three alumni of the Ladies First Founders cohort reflected on their experiences in the course and talked about the progress they have made on their business ideas. The panel was moderated by Barathi Aravindan, the Dingman Center’s own Venture Intern who is also an alumnae of Ladies First Founders. You can watch the session here.

November brought exciting rankings news. For the sixth straight year, the University of Maryland is ranked in the top ten for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Education, coming in at No. 6 for undergraduate entrepreneurship education, according to Entrepreneur magazine and The Princeton Review’s annual survey. Read more in Maryland Today here

In an ever-changing virtual world, things looked a bit different this year but we still celebrated a virtual Global Entrepreneurship Week in November. We hosted our signature program Terp Marketplace, in collaboration with Startup Shell Expo, and welcomed two alumni entrepreneurs to speak on our Ladies First Founders Panel. The panel featured alumni female founders Ngozi Azubike, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of OBAN Corporation, and Lauren Foundos, Founder and CEO of FORTË. 

Throughout the academic year, the Dingman Center provides ad-hoc seed funding for University of Maryland startups, called the E-Fund. Recently, we announced the E-Fund Winners of Fall 2020. In total, we were able to provide funding to seven startups and gave out nearly $5,000. The funding ranged from $250-$1,000 and will go towards the type of costs that can be barriers to getting an idea to market. 

While the annual Pitch Dingman Competition applications do not launch until January, this fall we introduced new programming through the Pitch Dingman Competition Prep Series. These workshop-type events help prepare students for the Pitch Dingman Competition application process. The series included guest appearances from past winners Hydraze and Aurora Tights; an introduction to understanding and identifying your target market with Maurice Boissiere; and a talk on building a profitable and impactful company with Martin Mayorga, founder and CEO of Mayorga Organics

Our Founders Forum also continued to meet monthly this semester via the virtual platform, Spacial Chat. Founders who attended these sessions discussed a variety of topics related to running a business. The Dingman Center Angels met virtually in September, October and November with three new investment opportunities resulting for Nest Collaborative, Wellfound Foods and N5 Sensors. We are excited to watch these startups grow next year with their newfound funding! 

In addition to the many programs and events held this semester, Business Insider published “The top 10 metro areas where Black and Latinx founders are securing the most funding to build their companies.” The Washington D.C. metro area was listed at number 7 noting investments from the Dingman Center and TEDCO. 

As you can see, we had an amazing and busy fall, despite this being a new learning environment for everyone. We hope everyone stays safe and we want to thank our entire community for contributing to such a successful semester!

Ladies First Founders Panel Guides Aspiring Female Entrepreneurs with Timely Advice

by Anisah Ingram

Ladies First at Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship is committed to increasing the number of women involved in entrepreneurship at UMD and addresses the barriers that prevent female and non-binary students from pursuing entrepreneuship.

Last week, students had the opportunity to participate in Global Entrepreneurship Week by attending a virtual panel discussion with alumni female founders, Ngozi Azubike, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of OBAN Corporation and Lauren Foundos, Founder and CEO of FORTË. Azubike’s company provides practical strategic and tactical management solutions to public and private sector clients. Foundos’ company focuses on building software for gyms to broadcast their classes. Participants had the pleasure of hearing about their different journeys in entrepreneurship and fueled an insightful discussion on being a woman in the world of business.

Azubike started off the event by describing her journey. She didn’t always want to be an entrepreneur, which she joked “I didn’t even know how to spell the word.” Originally, she saw herself as a researcher. Foundos had the same response, where she explained that she wanted to work on Wall Street before going into the field she’s in now. The first step that Azubike took to go from an idea to a company was doing her homework. It involved creating a business plan, putting together marketing collateral, and pitching herself.

Foundos explains her journey as ongoing by continuously setting goals for herself and her company to achieve. It’s the state of looking back at where she started and seeing how far she’s come, especially because very few female founded companies get funded. COVID-19 has impacted a lot of business, but FORTË has been thriving because of it. The demand due to gyms being shut down has increased tremendously.

Azubike sees our current times as an opportunity for people to reinvent themselves and pivot into something new, specifically women looking to build businesses. Women that she coaches and mentors are taking their hobbies and turning them into businesses now. Research has shown that young women are less likely to report an idea they have for a new venture. Foundos agreed with this and explained that the reason she was able to start her company was because she found a group of women that enabled and supported her to ask questions.

In the end of the event, they left us with great advice on what keeps them going in their field. Foundos explained how it’s going into any new venture or situation with conviction, even if you don’t have it all together. “Go for what you want and don’t worry about making mistakes”, she said, “It’s important to get out there and just do it”. Azubike explained how you learn from the lessons in your experience, but you can’t get stuck on them. She’s learned that in the end, you have to keep stepping onwards.

Interested in learning more about the Dingman Center’s Ladies First Initiative? Visit go.umd.edu/ladiesfirst for ways to get involved and details on BMGT 369D: Ladies First Founders, our one-credit Spring 2021 course that is now open for registration!

Announcing E-Fund Winners of Fall 2020

Through generous gifts from Carly Fiorina and Kevin Plank, the Dingman Center provides ad-hoc seed funding for University of Maryland startups, called the E-Fund. These nondilutive grants range from $250-$1000. Funding typically goes towards equipment purchases, website hosting, rapid prototyping, incorporation fees or any other costs that you see a barrier to getting an idea to market.

Check out this semester’s E-Fund recipients!

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Vitalize, LLC

Founders: Sanketh Andhavarapu ’23, Veeraj Shah ’21

Vitalize is a mobile app for physicians with activities to alleviate stress and reduce burnout. Their E-Fund award of $1000 will be put towards developing crucial software and app functionality.

Morning Light, LLC

Founder: Harrison Burke ’20

Morning Light fosters competitive Esports teams to make the jump to full-time professional sponsorships. As Morning Light’s web presence is a high priority for this esports organizer, their $1000 E-Fund award will go to website development.

Blimp Logistics, LLC

Founder: Camilo Melnyk ’21

Blimp Logistics provides a fast and robust drone delivery network for any business. To support Blimp’s efforts to complete a full and functional prototype, this $1000 E-Fund will be used for a GPS System, Raspberry support hardware, data plan, and website development.

SweetsbyCaroline, LLC

Founder: Caroline Ta ’21

SweetsbyCaroline is a baking business that specializes in custom gluten-free french macarons, as well as cakes, cupcakes, and other desserts that are perfect for engagements, weddings, parties, and other events. Looking to increase her production while reducing costs and time, Caroline will be investing her $1000 E-Fund into a new, larger convection oven that will triple her delicious output.

Edullo

Founders: Eric Patel ’21 and Esha Vangara

Edullo is a platform created by students for students. They connect scholars to freelancers to do their part of level the playing field in education. Their $500 E-Fund will go towards supporting and maintaining their data-heavy website platform, and developing an app for even easier access.

Across The Board

Founders: Rick Philbin, MBA Candidate ’21

Across the Board is a game rental service for events. They are solving the problem for anyone hosting a wedding / birthday party / tailgate who wants to have exciting games for their event but does not want to own them long-term. Their $312 E-Fund award will be applied to a year-long Squarespace subscription.

Campus Gigs

Founders: Nataraj Shivaprasad ’24 and Sri Kanipakala ’24

Currently, the gig economy is estimated to account for 40% of the U.S workforce. With the rise of remote work, this number is slated to grow, making it imperative for college students to be prepared for the unique challenges and skills required for the gig economy. We are looking to solve this problem by developing a platform specifically for students to provide gig services to local businesses. Businesses also benefit from this, untapping the potential of a flexible, cheaper, and in many cases, skilled workforce. Campus Gigs’ $150 E-Fund Award will support their app development.

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Terp Startup Morning Light Esports brings some old-school competition

This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the 12 student startups who are participating in our virtual Terp Startup summer accelerator. Participating student entrepreneurs received a stipend up to $5,000 that would enable them to work exclusively on their startups over eight weeks in the summer.

Morning Light Esports

Founder: Harrison Burke ’20

DC: Tell us about your startup. What problem are you solving and for whom?

Burke: Morning Light is an Esports organization focused on bringing a vintage and rustic aesthetic to an industry that is currently filled with companies that are carbon copies of one another. The assumption that everyone interested in Esports wants to see brands that are edgy, neon colored, and filled with intensity, is a massive misconception to me. Everyone wants to champion something whether it’s a band, their university, or a professional team. My ambition is to build an Esports org for people who are bored of the same old thing and give them something to champion.

DC: How did you first come up with your idea?

Burke: I’ve been involved in Esports since 2013 and my obsession with antiques, vintage clothes, and classic rock goes back further than my memory serves me. When I realized that I wanted to run my own Esports organization after having worked in Esports for 2 years, it felt only right to make it harder than I had to for a challenge’s sake. I could create another boring, neon-light-covered, obnoxious brand like everyone else, or I could go a different route and look to create something that hasn’t been done before. It hit me that creating an Esports brand based on vintage and rustic themes would be a way for me to make my work an extension of myself and my identity while bringing something new to the scene.

DC: What are some major milestones you’ve achieved so far?

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