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Joël Flores

Wallflower Coffee Co.

Joël Flores

Gabriel Flores  0:01  

Hello, everyone and welcome to the shades of entrepreneurship. This is your host, Mr. Gabriel Flores. Today I am here with possibly a distant cousin. We are not sure yet. Joel Flores, the owner of wallflower Coffee Company Joel, how are you doing?

Joël Flores  0:17  

I'm doing well. How are you today? Thank

Gabriel Flores  0:18  

you so much for joining me on the show. I love coffee. Just throwing that out there. Big big coffee drinker. So first, let's introduce the listeners at home to Joel who is Joel.

Joël Flores  0:30  

So my name is Joel. As Gabe mentioned, I've been living in Portland for the last seven years or so. Originally a Bay Area native go 40. Niners

Gabriel Flores  0:39  

Oh, we got to this operators nation over here, but this is Raider Nation.

Joël Flores  0:43  

We know the moves. I know. I know. They recently moved but in my heart, they're always gonna be Bay Area, you know?

Yeah, so I'm from the Bay Area. And one of those things is that I came to Portland kind of a bit of a transplant. So I'm one of those guys. This is like, oh, do I even belong here because I feel like there's like such like a nativist kind of like, approach when it comes to Portland in particular, like, and it's a city different. It's a city is a city, and that's in transition to as well. So coming into the whole scene, I kind of look at it from a position of like, Oh, I'm here, I'm living here. I've been here, but I'm still kind of figuring out my ways around this town.

Gabriel Flores  1:26  

Right? Right. So so what what brought you to Oregon?

Joël Flores  1:31  

Opportunity, really, I had a bit of a counseling background, I was also fairly religious. So I thought that I was gonna go into being a clergy was gonna go to seminary. Never happened, obviously. And I just decided that you know what, whatever happens happens, I did get into the nonprofit sector. And it definitely had more of an emphasis of like, working with people counseling with people being a neighbor. And that's always been my philosophy, my my, my MO, like, how can I be a neighbor to folks within the area wherever I stay. And so I worked for a local nonprofit, I will probably leave their name out of the air just because it's fun. But I did that for a number of years in Portland. And I've always been just kind of the kind of guy that just always wants to be part of the community in some form or fashion.

Gabriel Flores  2:23  

Nice. Coffee, like why coffee, coffee.

Joël Flores  2:27  

So I have a bit of a connection with coffee just for a myriad of reasons. My dad was a coffee farmer and Honduras nice way back in the day. Nice. That was before they had to leave the country because of war and conflict and whatnot. Yeah, region, which is rough. That is rough. But I've always grown up with coffee, coffee has always been a part of my story. Even in the Bay Area. As a kid, my dad would give me I was that kid that my dad would get coffee too, probably was not the best idea. super hyper. Still, you know, I've always known coffee to be part of my fabric within my story, the fabric of my story. That's kind of her way of phrasing it. But you and I mean, the fabric of my story, essentially, I my real coffee experience was actually just outside of Sacramento, California, there was this like little nonprofit coffee shop. So I think that's where the nonprofit kind of like plays into it, because it's very much a community coffee shop. And it was kind of the hub where neighbors meet, hang out, people got to know each other. So I've always associated coffee with being around the table, whether it was my dad, or whether it was with the neighbors across the street. Coffee has always been a part of this idea of like, being intentionally present with folks. And so that's that's probably reason why I'm why I'm getting into coffee now. And so

Gabriel Flores  3:39  

wallflower, is there any type of particular meaning behind it?

Joël Flores  3:43  

So I'm glad that you asked that name. It's actually kind of inspired by our love for 60s and 70s. Music. We weren't originally wallflower Coffee Company. There was a song that we're going to go with called sundown. So we're going to be sundown Coffee Company, what we didn't really, really realize was that sundown has a bit of a bit of a racist connotation of the state of Oregon. And so that was a whole kind of like, oh, shoot, like we need to change, we need to kind of like dial back labelling the name. What was originally intended to be good ended up just being kind of problematic. And we didn't realize that until one of our neighbors came up and they're like, Hey, by the way, sundown city, sundown towns not saying that that's your coffee shop. But some some people might, you know, look into that in my reading to that and like realize, like that's probably not the best name, especially in the state like Oregon. And so we had to kind of go through a bit of an evolution of like, okay, well what do we want to you know, for our shop, you know, as far as like a name goes, so wallflower. There's a lot of associations with music in particular. Bob Dylan has a song called wallflower. It's one of the one of the bootleg songs and we we liked them Have the cadence of the song kind of felt kind of in keeping with the kind of like who we are stylistically kind of acoustic folk, kind of like a little bit of a country kind of like hazy kind of like vibe. We're not a themed country hazy coffee shop by no means. But we want to kind of give a little bit of that, you know, that aura of like, Man, this is something that you're you're kind of intimately familiar with. It sounds familiar. It looks familiar, but you've never been here before.

Gabriel Flores  5:27  

And so what? Your dad previously worked in the coffee field, yes. What all goes into coffee? Cuz I think I know I drink it every day. Sure. If I really know what goes into the coffee, like what goes into producing it? How does it get into my cup?

Joël Flores  5:41  

So you know, I coffee is a very difficult plant to grow and cultivate. Last I checked. And I will be honest with you, I am not the expert on it. I wish my dad was here because he can like tell you verbatim just like this is the process. But it takes years it takes years to actually have like an actual good harvest and planning the trees. Will the coffee trees or bushes? There's always a debate about that, I guess. Is it a purchase of the tree? Yes, yes, maybe it gets coffee beans, like it's producing coffee beans. And my dad was a coffee farmer in his youth, Honduras out in the hills. And part of that process, this is the result of just like, making sure that sales good, you have the right height, temperature is very important. And there's a lot of other things that you got to consider. So I think the real process is just determining like Location, location, location, like, okay, where we're going to plant, you know, these, these seats where we're going to plant these coffee plants, you know, so that we can have a good product and whatnot. And they happen to be in a very high enough region within Honduras. Right climate I mean, it's a tropical climate. So naturally, there's gonna be some good coffee out there. So yeah,

Gabriel Flores  6:54  

that in fact, that region of the country of of the entire world has an amazing coffee, Colombia, Chile and indoors. I mean, that is most of your coffee tends to come from that region. Yeah. So So with wallflower? You know, one of the things I think that's interesting that folks at home should know is you guys are just You haven't even opened up the store yet.

Joël Flores  7:13  

Right? I should mention, by the way, it's both me and my business partner, Grace gladly. She's not here today. She's taking the day off. She's just like, It's Labor Day. Relax, like I don't want to do anything. And totally understandable. Like, I'm here.

Gabriel Flores  7:29  

So did you guys decide? LLC? S Corp. C Corp. What do you guys Yeah, we

Joël Flores  7:33  

decided LLC, just because we are a very small operation. And we're very much in the weeds of the business itself. It's just her and I, she brings on more of the creative side of things, I bring up more of a kind of the administration logistics side of things. And part of the reason why we wanted to be an LLC is because we want to remember manage, it's just her and I it doesn't really make sense to be anything other than that, right? At this time. We're not a chain, we're not some big corporation, we're just a small little business, se division in 30 seconds, come find us. And we're making it happen. But really, it's just been her and I and a handful of other people have come along with us who are not necessarily a part of our LLC. But you know, we want to be open enough in the event that there's other people that want to come along with our journey on that extra step of like actual ownership or partnership, rather, we want to keep that available for folks.

Gabriel Flores  8:30  

So let's let's uh, let's talk about the the process of kind of going through where you're at now. Because, again, as we mentioned, you guys, your location is not open yet. What goes into what you're doing, trying to create a brand, create a company in grand opening, getting the word out shirt, I'll just go to that

Joël Flores  8:48  

a lot. And mind you, I don't have a business background. This is my first business. Yeah, okay, perfect. And so everything that we're doing is just kind of like we're we're learning as we as we go. Yeah. A found out that what goes into starting a coffee shop in particular, you need a product. First and foremost. Yeah, we have to decide whether or not we want to just be solely just a cafe. So we're just using other people's beans which which is not an issue, or did we want to like create our own product restaurant product. We're currently working through a private label company. So it's a third party that's roasting our coffee. And we've been working with them but it's under our branding. It's under kind of like our you know specifics of what we want within our coffee. And so the bulk of the product has been really the focus of the last year. And we definitely want to cater to the fact that coffee is not something that you just have around the clock. Coffee comes around seasonally, depending on what part of the world you're in. So this previous season this last the summer season, we've have a Colombia, we haven't Ethiopia. We were also looking into Peru. Just in keeping with the seasons, and so we want to go with what makes sense as far as like, you know, distribution goes and like kind of like Harvest goes. And we want to provide the freshest product that we can on the market.

Gabriel Flores  10:11  

Yeah. Now what you you mentioned previously, this is your first business. Yes. What have you learned? What? What is? Uh, what is the learning curve for you? Because you mentioned earlier, you're not a business guy. But oh, what have you learned so far?

Joël Flores  10:23  

I've learned that this is this a lot, but anybody can do it. At the end of the day, anybody can do it, whether you're young or old, it's never too late. It's never too early. There's never really ever a good time to get into business. Yes. But take a risk. I mean, it's a lot of fun. I've learned that. I know that you have an education, you know, within within business and whatnot. But I would actually argue that there's a lot of things online. Yeah, they're pretty helpful. And also just getting connect, I found what's been really helpful for me is getting connected with other business owners, other entrepreneurs, other people that are within this field, and getting their advice. So a lot of what I've learned is the result of people that I'm in connection with that are already in it to win it. And they've been doing this for years, and driven capacities. So I'm talking about like freelancers, photographers, other boutique shop, coffee shop owners, all kinds of people that are kind of in a similar industry or have some kind of model that's kind of relatable in that sense. I've learned that really relying on the people that know what they're doing has been the most helpful thing and humbling experience like I I've learned in business, you got to be humble. Yeah, if you come on in thinking very true. You thinking that you know, what you're gonna do

Gabriel Flores  11:43  

get your ego put in check pretty low. Yeah.

Joël Flores  11:46  

And I think I'm a pretty humble guy myself, but there's been some moments where I've really had to, like, let my guard down a little bit, and just like, oh, here we go. This is this is that this is what it is. Yeah.

Gabriel Flores  11:58  

And you made a very good point. In regards to education. You know, for the listeners at home, there is so many free education, opportunities available for you books, you can go to the library and get a book, most of what you do in business has probably already been researched and written about, you know, every every aspect of business. Networking is so important. That's why, you know, I keep telling folks you mentioned, you know, I got a degree at Syracuse, however, I what I learned in Syracuse is basically what I'm doing here now. So take this opportunity to listeners, this is free education for you, you know, I'm interviewing these entrepreneurs, for you to really indulge yourself and say, Hey, these are what this is what really goes on in this this industry. Right? I think there's this misconception where it's a quick rich gets kind of scheme. And then it's not it's a lot of a lot of behind the scenes work in some of these founders and entrepreneurs. They don't become successful the first year, you know, how has this first year for wallflower been for you?

Joël Flores  12:59  

And we're in the red. Especially if you're opening up a coffee shop. Let's just be honest, coffee is really oversaturated. Especially in Portland, anywhere in the West Coast. Really. Any major city has a plethora of coffee shops and coffee roasteries that you can go to and they're all great, I highly recommend them all. That said, there's not a whole lot of money in this industry to begin with. Especially if you're trying to start out as a new coffee shop. Yeah. And we feel fortunate because we it was all timing on our end. So we came across the space. Back in February, actually, when we found out that there was a turnkey situation, and ended up not being a full turnkey situation. That's a whole other story for another day. But we're going into it and I was pretty burnt out at that time in my life. From my previous job, I was pretty tired. And I knew that I needed to change I'm about to enter into my 30s and I'm just realized, like, Man, this was a great phase in life working, you know, within this capacity, but I need to do something different. And so when this opportunity presented itself, I'm like, Oh, of course like this is something that's always been a dream of mine. That said I didn't anticipate a lot of the hurdles that would come into really figuring out stuff both I and my business partner, we've been really reliant on people that we've known the kind of come along to our aid. In particular, let's just kind of just break it down branding was outside of the product, you know, like developing the product. Branding was kind of a bit of a hurdle for our for us too, as well. Because we have to kind of like come up with a bit of an identity and if you know anything about Portland coffee shops, they'll kind of look like

Gabriel Flores  14:40  

yeah sorry guys. Alright though I love all of you

Joël Flores  14:44  

all. Everybody, all the emojis they're great, you know when it comes to coffee and whatnot, but we want to bring something a little bit different and we knew from the get go that we have to do something a little different. And I know that I feel like every coffee shop says that you know like over Using a little bit different here and there, and that's great. But we knew that we had to try really extra hard just be that little bit of add that little Genesis ACWA, you know, something, something that will make sense for the neighborhood wouldn't make sense for the community at large, it would make sense for, you know, kind of our city. And and we're still trying to figure that out, actually, yeah, we got to get a designer on on our on our team. Her name is Liz Chai. Fantastic lady. She's been working with us last several months, just just coming up with a bit of a look and appeal to the community. And it's been really cool working with her for the most part. And then along with that, we've had a lot of people come on in giving us inspiration to for, you know, our branding and our marketing too. And so that's the other thing, too, is like, how do we market our image to that's also been kind of a bit of a weird thing, because it's like we're operating for we were operating for a long time without space. So here we are coming up with the product, and announcing that we're going to become a cafe. We knew where we were located. But we weren't really in the space to begin with, up until recently. So we're now finally in the space, we're getting it all set up and whatnot. But marketing a coffee shop that has yet to really kind of exist. It's really tough.

Gabriel Flores  16:14  

Yeah, yeah, definitely. So. So explain to the listeners at home what exactly will be sold at your guys's cafe? So just coffee? We guys have pastries? Yeah, so

Joël Flores  16:23  

we're gonna have coffee, various coffee varieties, various coffee varieties, yeah. And pastries. We're trying to turn right now whether or not we're going to have like a little bigger debt for us. Or if we're going to, we did have a beggar on our team. And unfortunately, that didn't really work out flush out just because they found a great opportunity to work with another bakery coach as a head baker. So we're looking for Baker,

Gabriel Flores  16:50  

plug plug right now for those listening at home, if you know, local bakers that are interested in partnering with a local coffee company, please no. In fact, one of our former guests, Giovanni Gob on if you're listening, what's going on, shout out to you. And then the coffee feed team would be another great team to connect with. Because again, a part of this podcast is really connecting folks, right? How can we how can we build this country back to you know, one small business at a time kind of philosophy? And so marketing is very difficult. How, how have you done it? With a company that's it's not even open yet?

Joël Flores  17:23  

I think we've been very honest about a process. Okay. And so obviously, there's some easy avenues. So social media, in particular, Instagram, follow us on wallflower Coffee Company. And we have been really sharing our story this whole time. So we don't have the space, we don't have the wares per se, to really kind of showcase like this amazing product, and this amazing space. But what we do have is kind of like our kind of vision for the space, our values. And you know, how we want to be allies to the community. And I know that a lot of coffee shops type of community, and I've talked to a few people, like, avoid that topic. Everybody uses it. And they're probably right, because I feel like in a weird way, we do market that a little bit. And you have to in this day and age. But I think for us, we really want to like actually let that be part of our formula as people. Grace. My business partner, she, I mentioned earlier that she's more of the creative side of things and whatnot. She spent a barista for a number of years within Portland. And so she has a lot of people that she's connected with within the community. And in particular, she actually worked out of that space when it was another previous coffee shop. So that's something I didn't mention, actually, we came across a space because she had a connection to the space. And when that coffee shop had folded, you know, it was a vacant space, it was kind of a bit of a missing link. And so naturally, there was already a story being brewed. No pun intended. No coffee Pong.

Gabriel Flores  18:56  

Well, well played.

Joël Flores  18:58  

People were missing that coffee shop. But much more than that people were missing the people that were involved in that coffee shop too, as well. Yeah, it was part of everybody's rhythm. And so I think marketing our story has been the most beneficial. And dare I say probably the the emphasis of just who we are and whatnot, how we're trying to bring back a space. That is not just another coffee shop, but rather you know, we're there for our neighbors. And a lot of that has been based out of our own story and our connection with our friends and our neighbors. nice neighborhood.

Gabriel Flores  19:33  

So how did you guys start the business with funding? Did you guys go the venture capital route, grassroot effort,

Joël Flores  19:38  

a little bit of both. So initially, we wanted to, you know, do the whole Kickstarter thing, because we definitely had no money. Like, I wasn't nonprofit. She was a barista. And so yeah, we're we're two young kids, and we're just trying to figure things out. Yeah. Next thing you know, we're like, oh, shoot, there's this comic shop. Where does the name come from? Yeah, Kickstarter, Kickstarter ended up being a real Major fail. And by fail, it was a learning curve for us, you know, we learned a lot in that process. And what we found to be most effective for us is venture capital, but not with our own money. So we have to, like seek out investors. Yeah. And that was also a lot of fun to you as well, because we had a number of people that were interested in the shop. But something that, you know, we have to take into account is that there's still a lot of risk involved, especially opening up a coffee shop in the middle of a pandemic, yeah, people want to know that you're going to succeed. And so what has helped us is really we're relating folks our values as a shop, and you know, and also just having a bit of a kind of a framework of like, okay, hey, this is what we anticipate. This is what you know, our goals are or at, this is what we expect to be making within the next five years. This is how we're going to breakeven, so on and so forth. And so when we began to have a little more of an understanding, as far as like, the the specs of the business itself, that put people at ease, and that's how we were able to kind of attain the investors that we have now. Just because of agreements and whatnot, I can't go online as I can't announce who they are. But I we just to kind of give a little bit of a sneak peek into that a lot of it has been just kind of figuring out kind of like our numbers like that, at the end of the day, we have to figure out our numbers for investors. And so that's been really helpful.

Gabriel Flores  21:25  

What so you mentioned, you know, this is your first business you started, right, and you mentioned some of the difficulties. What is something that you learned during this venture capital process that you didn't know about?

Joël Flores  21:36  

So consumers love a good, good, kind of like, underdog story. Yeah, investors, you gotta show them money.

Gabriel Flores  21:49  

Or money. And that is so true. They do not care about the underdog. They, they're there. I mean, and it's kept things kind of important for the folks at home, no, investors are really there to recoup their funds back. Yeah, it's, it's an investment. Right, they anticipate to recoup some type of financial gains from this investment. They're not just kind of throwing out money. Now, when you had to do your pitch, what kind of information on investment? So for the folks at home, that maybe are starting a company, and they've gone the Kickstarter route? And it didn't work for them? What are some things that they should know, have relevant? You mentioned, you're going through your numbers now? How important is that, you know, for for the, to getting the funds from from some of these folks.

Joël Flores  22:32  

Very important, I can't emphasize that enough. I would say that, as you mentioned earlier, like people want a return on their investment, and then some. And so we want to make sure that anything that we're doing is calculated. And people always work. When I say calculated like Wait, you mean you have have like an exact like, like not like have an estimate, as far as like when you can like, pay back that investment? You know, make it worth their while on the process, things are going to shift? And I think, you know, I think most investors are willing to take a risk. I mean, just the fact that are people that are willing to throw money down, alright, tells you everything that you need to know about that investor. Yeah, they're probably probably have already been in the business have already have had some familiarity with the market. And so you know, they see value in this. And as long as you have a good business plan, slash hire person to do your business plan, if you can do it. And you know, go from there, I would say that, as long as he sound like you know what you're talking about, because you did your research. And even if you're not business savvy like me, because I'm definitely the most savviest guy in business. But take the time, take the time to really read into it, study up on it, hire someone to help you with your business proposal. We didn't do that we actually went online and see what goes into a good business proposal. I wish I did that from the get go. Oh, my gosh, I wish we did that. But needless to say, I would definitely advise that. And so that way, when you know, you come across an investor because there's been some opportunities where it was really off the cuff, I'm at a bar hanging out. Next thing, you know, oh, you're opening up a coffee shop. And those instant connections can either mean a great networking opportunity with somebody that's interested in partnering with you, or be it might be your next investor. That kind of that's kind of what happened with us, actually. So that's,

Gabriel Flores  24:21  

that's an important piece. And as it's something I've talked about so often on the show is the networking. How important is networking?

Joël Flores  24:29  

Extremely. I know that I mentioned that as my business partner and I, but we wouldn't be doing this thing if it wasn't for the help of people that just come literally, just out of the blue. We're like, Hey, I got this expertise. I got this kind of like business. Let's kind of shake hands on. This is your back, you scratch my back to the thing. And in that's how we're staying afloat. Right now. We're in the Red, but we're staying afloat. I know. That's kind of a bit of a paradox. But we're doing all right

Gabriel Flores  24:59  

now. Has there been a moment during this process of self doubt?

Joël Flores  25:03  

Absolutely. I would say, back in March, march was a really tough season, because I had actually put in my resignation that my previous work. And so that's when I kind of knew, like, masses it was is that we're going, we're going full, you know, into the situation. And early on in the game, there's still a lot of unknowns, we're still in negotiations and negotiations for the space. And I knew that we didn't have the capital right off the bat. So I was really concerned about that. I was also really concerned about the fact that, you know, that communication was taking a little bit forever to with a number of like, different, like, third parties that were involved in this space. So there was a lot of doubt, there was a lot of concerns. And and I realized that I had to kind of shift my mindset. I began to realize that wait, we're in early stages, like if I'm doubting right now. It's okay to have a little bit healthy doubt. But you have to do the work of exploring. Okay, well, where is this coming from? And what can I do to kind of like remedy the situation? Why am I feeling these doubts? And so I spent a good month and a half just kind of just writing down like a hand like, well, what are my major concerns? And how can I really help myself to kind of like, launch myself into something that is uncomfortable?

Gabriel Flores  26:22  

Yeah. And that's, that's a great learning opportunity for those folks at home too. It's like, we all have moments of self doubt. Overcome overcoming that self doubt, some sometimes be difficult. Yeah. Right. And having a plan in place, like you sound like you had to overcome. So self doubt moments is so important, because sometimes it's kind of you by yourself, digging yourself out of that thing. Yeah, it was unfortunate, but it really is now, looking back on everything, you know, from from moving, you know, from the from your dad's fields, what would you what advice would you give yourself a younger Joel,

Joël Flores  26:59  

I remember Joel, I would say don't sweat about it, you know, honestly, and that sounds really just like, cheesy, don't sweat about it. But life will always like present things that you're completely like that are completely out of your control. At the end of the day. Yeah, the worst thing that you can do is stay frozen in fear and anxiety, and not do anything about it. The best thing you can do is feel all the anxiety, all the fear, and silcon chip away at it, do something about it, and, and literally rely on folks that are there to support you. And that's that's been my saving grace, if you will. Just like leaving on people, there's some days where I'm just like, Shit, I don't know what I'm doing. Yeah. And I still got to push forward, I still got to move forward. And that that's, I think you can't really learn that. And I feel like I've been told that growing up, even my parents, my uncles, they're all business people.

It was inevitable, you know? And, but they always, they would always tell me like, yeah,

you just gotta just keep on moving, things are gonna happen. My family actually lost their business back in 2008. We were a family of contractors we've worked on like local construction, and around Northern California. And 2008 was a bad year for a lot of folks are, and for my folks included, and you know, I learned a lot from them. I learned a lot from just like learning how to pivot. Yeah, pivoting is my favorite word now, like, nothing's happened. You just got to pivot. And that's where you can't sweat about it, because it's out of your control. But doesn't mean there has to be an end.

Gabriel Flores  28:41  

That's true. Now for the folks at home that are interested about wallflower coffee, want to help support it want to kind of keep up to date because he's mentioned that locations gonna be opening soon. How can they find you on social media? How can they find you on the internet?

Joël Flores  28:54  

Yeah. So Instagram is a great way to keep up with our story. wallflower coffee, co there's currently a dozen other wallflower out in Malaysia. So we share name, we're not affiliated with them. You can also find us on Facebook. And it's probably the best way to keep up with your story honestly, is the social media aspect perfect. For inquiries if you're curious about our space or wanting to work with us or have like a pop up situation, we have a few people that are interested in pop up which reminds me I need to follow some emails. So I apologize to Andy. Sucker Punch. I will get back to you ASAP. I those are things that you know we're we're definitely open to email us or DM us or email us wallflower coffee.

Gabriel Flores  29:39  

Yeah, so you guys here at first, wallflower coffee, where's the physical location?

Joël Flores  29:44  

32nd and division, which three 158 southeast division. So that is our address. We're right across the street from OMAS which is another amazing restaurant that just hit the place up. They hooked us up the other night. It was fantastic. Perfect.

Gabriel Flores  29:58  

Joel Flores. I'm the co founder of wallflower Coffee Company thank you so much for being on my show for those listening at home please join us on Instagram Facebook and Twitter Thank you and have a great night

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