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Starting A Business

How to Get Funding for a Business Idea With Equity or Debt Financing




If you’re a born entrepreneur, there’s little more exciting than hitting upon a business idea that you know you can spring from your imagination and into the real world. Of course, just like full-fledged operations, business ideas need capital to thrive. The next step is to use that momentum to figure out how to get funding for a business idea.

This, of course, can be easier said than done. Without a financial history, where are you supposed to find funding for a business idea? If you approach your bank for a business loan, you’re likely to find a closed door. That being said, when your business idea needs funding you do have quite a few non-bank options to consider.

How to fund your business idea

Some of these financing methods are easier to qualify for than others. Some require more time and planning to secure. And some may simply not provide you with the financing solution your future business really needs. Ultimately, choosing your business’s initial funding solution is entirely at your discretion.

But before you embark on that decision, you need to be armed with the facts. Here, we’ll go over a few of the most common and accessible ways to fund a business idea.

Debt-based vs. zero-debt financing for business ideas

As we’re talking about how to get funding for a business idea, we’re going to focus on two categories: debt-based financing and zero-debt financing.

Debt-based financing is probably what first comes to mind at the mention of a small business loan: It’s when a business receives a certain amount of money with the promise of repaying that amount, plus interest, to the lender (hence, the creation of debt).  Obviously, lenders, either banks or online lenders, are taking a risk every time they extend a loan. After all, debt-based loans are contingent upon the borrower—or, the business—being financially solvent enough to repay the debt they owe.

In order to feel secure extending debt-based loans, most lenders require several years’ worth of a business’s financial history in their business loan applications. Some of those common business loan requirements include evidence of positive cash flow, profitability, a long credit history, and good personal and business credit scores.

But business ideas, of course, simply don’t have the financial evidence those lenders want to see.

So, going the zero-debt financing route is likely the first course of action for the newest businesses—or at least one you might consider. Rather than securing financing through the creation of debt, startups in need of capital can look toward their family and friends, the general public, their own assets, or individual investors seeking a share in the company’s profits in return for their money.

That said, it’s not impossible to fund a business idea with a loan. Startup loans just won’t look exactly like the traditional term loans you might be expecting, because they won’t necessarily involve the same application requirements. That means they’ll be a little easier for new businesses to qualify for. We’ll get into all of this more.

How to get funding for a business idea with zero-debt financing

Zero-debt financing encompasses a few different financing methods—none of which, of course, involve a business owing money to a lender. These methods also require approval on a business loan application, which is a really good thing for business ideas (or, not-yet businesses). Here are a few options:

1. Angel Investors

Equity financing allows individuals or firms who are funding your business ownership stakes in return for capital. Angel investing and venture capital are probably the two best-known methods of equity financing for startups. The former is generally more accessible to brand-new business ideas. Angel investors tend to be individuals focusing on earlier investments of smaller sums.

For aspiring entrepreneurs, angel investors truly live up to their divine nicknames. These wealthy individuals, many of whom are already successful business owners, offer cash upfront to help very new businesses get off the ground. Angels can also provide an equally valuable resource for new business owners: Guidance and expertise.

But just like with any other form of financing, you’ll need to prove that your business plan is viable, your product or service fulfills a need in the market and that, through your fiscal responsibility and business acumen, your venture will become lucrative.

So you’ll certainly need to have an operating business plan in place before approaching potential angel investors (more on that later). But sometimes, you’ll also want to collect additional data, proving your business’s viability, to bring to the investors’ table.

This was the case for Aaron White, CEO of Script:

“When I first created my company, I was working full-time at a school as an IT Director. Luckily, I was able to partner with my school to pilot my product and pivot with my cofounder as we gathered data. After a year of building out our product, we had enough data to speak with local angels in the Tampa Bay community. Thanks to introductions from organizations such as the Tampa Bay Wave, our local non-profit incubator, we were able to meet angels who funded our first round of financing to help us grow.”

Like White, you may find angel investors through business incubators or startup accelerators. On the other hand, your future angels may already exist within your current network.

Tom Gatzen, cofounder of UK-based flatshare site Ideal Flatmate, says:

“Our initial funding came from a range of angel investors. We reached out to people within our extended network—and pretty much anyone we thought would be interested in our idea. As a result, over 20 people ended up investing in our seed round.”

One of the advantages of angel investors is that they don’t just disappear after they contribute to that seed round. As long as you’re using their initial funds responsibly, and showing evidence of real growth, then angels will continue to invest in your business. Ultimately, as shareholders, it’s in their best interest to see your business succeed.

Ideal Flatmate’s Gatzen continues:

“We used that [seed] money to build a basic version of our site, so we were able to demonstrate to future investors that there was a large market of users interested in our idea. From there, we were able to build solid financial projections and create a business plan forecasting the next three to five years. We’ve just closed our second round of funding, and almost all of the funding came as follow-up investments from our initial investors.”

2. Crowdfunding

Thanks to sites like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, GoFundMe, and more, crowdfunding is becoming an increasingly popular method for entrepreneurs (or anyone else, for that matter) to raise at least a portion of their seed money. Basically, funders give because they believe in your project or venture—that’s it. And since raising money through a crowdfunding site has the potential to reach thousands of people, it’s a built-in marketing method too.

3. Family and Friends

When you’re serious about turning your idea into an operating business, you’ll likely turn to those closest to you to pitch in some cash before anything else. That makes a lot of sense: You’re probably leaning on them for emotional support throughout this endeavor—and, assuming they want you to succeed, they’ll be excited to offer you financial support, too.

But, as is always the case when you’re mixing your personal life with your professional life, proceed with caution. Make sure your business plan is airtight before tapping your loved ones for loans or equity, lest you find yourself responsible for losses you may have been able to prevent.

And to truly protect everyone involved (and avoid potential rifts), detail the terms of your agreement in writing, either with an attorney or not.

4. Self-Finance

While you consider other forms of zero-debt financing, you should probably start planning on self-financing your business.

Of course, self-financing your business can feel like a huge leap of faith. But if you plan on securing thousands, if not millions, more from angels or venture capitalists down the line, you’ll need to show these individuals or firms that you have “skin in the game.” If you don’t believe in your business enough to put your own capital on the line, then a stranger certainly won’t risk theirs.

There are a few ways to access the funds you’ll need to self-finance your business, like drawing from your retirement account, borrowing against your investments, or taking out a home equity loan. Or if you’ve been an especially diligent saver, you may be able to simply contribute those savings toward your business venture.

Stacy Caprio, owner of Deals Scoop, says:

“I used my own savings from my 9-to-5 job to initially fund my business. It was freeing to use my own money since I didn’t need to relinquish business control to VCs or beg my friends and family for cash.”

Your personal-turned-startup capital can come from unlikely places too. Ronna Moore, owner of Fairy Homes and Gardens in Savannah, Missouri, funded her successful online store through an unexpected resource: Her own physical store:

“Originally, my ecommerce business was just meant to be an extension of my brick-and-mortar operation. But as time went on, I began to restructure my business plan and used revenue from my physical location to fund my ecommerce business. I found this the easiest way to ensure I had revenue coming in and could put money aside. I’ve now officially transitioned to ecommerce because of this funding model.”

Borrowing against your nest egg, sacrificing your new-car money, or even pulling funds away from your current business to support a new one can feel risky. But there is some practical value in that fear: When you’re confident relinquishing a portion of your own money, you’ll know that your business idea is truly feasible.

How to get zero-debt funding for a business idea

So how do you know which zero-debt financing route is best for you? Anders Thomsen, CEO of No-More in Copenhagen, Denmark, received funding for his startup through three different avenues. All of them have specific pros and cons, and every soon-to-be entrepreneur needs to weigh them out carefully. Thomsen says:

“Friends and family are two of the best ways to find startup funding. It’s easy, and your friends and family are probably willing to invest in you because they genuinely want your idea to succeed. But if your idea doesn’t succeed, you may end up losing your loved ones’ hard-earned money, then have to live with the consequences.

“Crowdfunding is another great funding option. You don’t have to give up equity, and you don’t need to worry about paying off a loan. However, it can be difficult to secure the amount of funding you really need.

“Angel investors can provide large funding amounts, which you can use to grow your business quickly. Additionally, angels usually provide expert advice and help prevent mistakes common to new small business owners. On the downside, you’ll have to give up equity and possibly some decision-making control.”

As we mentioned earlier, if you go the zero-debt-based financing route, it’s unlikely that you’ll need to provide the business loan requirements that traditional lenders want to see, like profit & loss statements, business bank account statements, and other hard evidence of your business’s profitability.

But all of these lenders—including you!—will definitely need to be convinced of your business’s viability and your seriousness as a small business owner.

“Regardless of which route you take to fund your business idea,” Thomsen suggests, “prepare a solid presentation that answers the questions your investors may have.” He recommends that you include the following in your pitch (at a bare minimum):

  • Identify an opening in the marketplace, or a consumer’s pain point

  • Explain how your business provides a solution to that problem

  • Analyze the current market, your target audience, and how your company will align with both

  • Identify your competitors and how your business will set yourself apart from them

  • Draft your financial projections

That might seem like a lot to prepare. But if you’re serious about your business idea, then you would have already finalized this material in your business plan.

Your business plan provides you, as the owner, with an actionable plan for building and growing your venture over the next three to five years. And lenders won’t feel comfortable funding your venture until they know exactly what they’re getting themselves (and their money) into.

How to fund a business idea with debt-based financing

As Thomsen says, there are a few downsides to zero-debt funding methods. So, you might want to look into securing a small business loan to fund your business idea—either for any of the above reasons, or just to supplement whatever funds you’ve already gained by bootstrapping.

Debt-based options are limited for brand-new business ideas, but they do exist! You just need to find the business loan options that are accessible to businesses with limited (or no) financial history. These are three of your best choices:

1. Personal loan for business

Whether from traditional banks or online lenders, business loans are hard to come by for startups. After all, lenders take a big risk in extending business loans, which can extend into the millions of dollars for the most eligible borrowers working with the biggest banks.

So, lenders need to be certain that the borrower is capable of repaying those huge amounts. But if you’re new to the game, there’s no way of proving your business’s profitability and reliability. In that case, you can consider a personal loan for business.

Unlike business loans, which can only be used toward your business, you can use a personal loan for pretty much anything you need that capital for. That includes your startup. And since it’s you who’s responsible for the debt, and not your business, then your lender is only going to consider your personal financials and credit history on your application.

That personal responsibility can be a double-edged sword, though. If you default on a personal loan, your own assets are on the hook, so that’s a risk you’d need to be willing to take. In general, too, it can also be risky to commingle your personal and business’s financials. Depending on your business entity type, if your personal finances are mixed up with your business’s, you may become personally liable in case of a lawsuit. Or, at the very least, intermingling personal and business financials makes filing taxes really difficult.

Finally, personal loans can often be smaller than business loans, and they can come with hefty closing costs. So, definitely run through the pros and the cons before taking out a personal loan for business.

2. Equipment financing

For many entrepreneurs, equipment (we’re talking trucks, ovens, computers, etc.) is necessary to make their business ideas operable. But that equipment is just as expensive as it is crucial to a certain type of small business’s success.

That’s where equipment financing comes into play. In addition to financing that important gear, equipment loans are especially viable financing methods for new businesses because they’re a little easier to qualify for than traditional term loans.

As you know by now, lenders are always looking to mitigate risk. For the most part, they only want to work with the borrowers whom they’re certain will repay their debt. But collateralized loans, like equipment financing, provide the lender with a built-in safety net.

With an equipment loan, the lender uses the equipment itself as collateral, which they’ll collect if their borrower fails to repay their loan. That seriously lessens the lender’s risk, so they’ll be a little more forgiving when considering the borrowers they’re comfortable working with. In fact, equipment lenders are just as concerned with the value of the equipment they’re funding as they are with a borrower’s personal creditworthiness and business history.

Do be aware, however, that borrowers with higher credit scores will receive better terms (i.e. lower interest rates) on their equipment loans than those with lower credit scores. So, although you’ll have an easier time funding your business idea with an equipment loan, it remains in your best interest to maintain the highest credit score possible.

3. Business credit cards

If you want to fund a business idea with debt-based capital, your easiest option is to sign up for a business credit card. Using a business credit card is the easiest way to meet your day-to-day expenses, maintain that important separation between your personal and business finances, and even earn perks and rewards that enhance your business’s productivity.

Even the newest businesses have a shot at approval for a business credit card. If a business’s financial history is limited, then card issuers will simply evaluate the personal financial information provided on the business credit card application instead. Card issuers just need to know that you have ample enough funds to pay your monthly bills, regardless of whether that money comes from your business or another job entirely.

As you probably know from shopping around for your personal credit card, there are a ton of business credit cards on the market. All of these cards cater to different credit score ranges, business needs, and individual spending habits. But when you’re first starting out, it’s hard to know exactly what your business’s needs and habits actually are.

Every business is unique in its own way, but they’re pretty homogenous in at least one regard: They all need hard cash. That’s especially true of startups, who need flexible capital to build their businesses from the ground up. So funding a business idea with a cashback business credit card makes a lot of sense. You get all the ease and flexibility of a credit card, but you’ll also end up with a surplus of cash that you can use however you see fit.

How to get funding for a business idea

If you’re considering funding a business idea, your first thought may angle you toward your local bank. Although you’d be right to think that your bank offers pretty amazing loan products; in reality, you’ll have a tough time knocking down the requirements that stand between you and that huge loan amount (and tiny interest rate).

One option is to try zero-debt sources of financing, like these:

  • Equity financing, like angel investors or venture capitalists (if you can snag them)

  • Crowdfunding

  • Loans from family and friends

  • Self-financing

Other zero-debt financing options for startups include small business grants, startup accelerator programs, and business incubators.

You can also look at debt-based financing, including:

  • Business credit cards

  • Equipment financing

  • Invoice financing

These three debt-based financing solutions are a little to a lot easier for new businesses to qualify for than traditional term loans.

Ultimately—as was the case with the small business owners we spoke to—you’re probably going to end up funding your business idea using a combination of these methods.

No matter what, take your time to research your funding options, and pursue the options that are truly possible for your business idea right now. And don’t rush into funding before the business idea is ready—with a complete and detailed business plan in hand, you’ll have the best shot at securing the best and biggest funding.


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Starting A Business

4 Tips for Starting an Industrial Business



The industrial sector is a broad category that covers businesses involved in the manufacturing, production, and distribution of goods. Small industrial companies are growing across the country and there are many opportunities for entrepreneurs to get involved in this sector.

As with any type of business, there are certain things you need to do to set yourself up for success. Here are four tips for starting an industrial business:

photo credit: Pixabay

1. Do Your Research

Market research means figuring out who your target customers are and what they want or need. There are a number of different ways to do this, but some of the most common include surveys, interviews, focus groups, and observation.

Surveys can give you a good overview of customer opinions while interviews or focus groups can help you to delve deeper into specific issues. Observing potential customers in their natural environment can also be helpful in understanding their behavior and needs.

2. Choose the Right Niche

When it comes to starting an industrial business, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is choosing the right niche. There are a number of factors to consider when making this choice, and it’s important to do your research before settling on a particular industry.

First, you’ll need to identify the needs of your potential customer base, such as the products or services they need. Once you have a good understanding of the market, you can then start to narrow down your options. Consider the competition in each niche and decide which one offers the best opportunity for success. When making your final decision, it’s essential to choose a niche that you’re passionate about.

3. Create a Business Plan

In today’s competitive marketplace, it’s more important than ever to choose the right niche for your industrial business. When you specialize in a specific industry or type of product, you can better meet the needs of your target market and stand out from the competition. How do you know what niche is right for your business? Here are a few things to consider:

First, think about your strengths. What does your company do better than anyone else? What unique skills or experience do you bring to the table? Use these strengths to narrow down your focus and choose a niche that you’re passionate about.

Next, consider your target market. Who are you trying to reach with your products or services? What needs do they have that you can address? When you choose a target market and understand their needs, you’ll be better able to choose a niche that meets their demands.

Finally, don’t be afraid to experiment. Trying new things is essential for any business, so don’t be afraid to test out different niches to see what works best for you. By keeping these tips in mind, you can be sure to choose the right niche for your industrial business.

Engineers work with industrial printer

4. Optimize Your Processes

Through industrial control engineering, you will be able to identify opportunities for improvement and design solutions that achieve the desired results. In many cases, these solutions involve the use of automation and other advanced technologies.

By optimizing industrial business processes, industrial control engineers can help to improve efficiency and increase productivity. In addition, they can also help to improve safety conditions by reducing the potential for accidents. As industries continue to grow and become more complex, the demand for qualified industrial control engineers is likely to increase.


With an increased demand for industrial operations and manufacturing, there has never been a better time to start an industrial business. By following these four tips, you can be sure to set your business up for success.

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Starting A Business

How to Find the Right Business Coach — and Avoid the Wrong One



At its best, business coaching can connect you with a mentor and supporter who helps you generate ideas, make plans and execute on them.

But at its worst, a business coaching offer can cost you time, energy and money — without much to show for it.

Here’s what to expect from a business coach, how to find a coach that suits you and how to spot red flags.

What a business coach can do

Business coaches draw on their professional experience to help you set and achieve your own business goals.

“I’m here to help you, and I’m here to raise your level of knowledge in whatever way I can,” says Gary Robinson, who chairs the Memphis, Tennessee, chapter of SCORE. SCORE offers free business mentoring for entrepreneurs nationwide.

Some ways a business coach or mentor might do this include:

  • Offering feedback on your ideas and suggesting new ones.

  • Giving you templates and other tools that help you make plans.

  • Connecting you with resources in your region or your industry.

  • Giving you deadlines and holding you accountable to them.

Some business coaches may also offer coursework or group training sessions on particular topics, like sales.

Working with a coach should help you identify opportunities you hadn’t seen before or develop new strategies for pursuing those opportunities, says Sophia Sunwoo, who coaches women and nonbinary entrepreneurs through Ascent Strategy, her New York City-based firm.

“[Coaches] don’t necessarily have to have all the answers,” Sunwoo says. “But they are the people that know how to maneuver and create a bunch of different thinking paths for their clients.”

What a business coach can’t do

A business coach isn’t the same as a consultant, whom you would hire to perform a specific task. A coach or mentor could look over your business plan, for example, but they wouldn’t write it for you.

“If you were to hire me as a consultant, you would expect me to roll up my sleeves and pitch in and work with you to get things done, and you would pay me for that,” Robinson says. Coaches, on the other hand, “try to show you how to do things so that you can do them [yourself].”

Business coaches are also not therapists, Sunwoo says. Entrepreneurship can be emotionally and mentally taxing, but it’s important that coaches refer clients to mental health professionals when necessary.

Business coaching red flags

If a business coaching opportunity “promises guaranteed income, large returns, or a ‘proven system,’ it’s likely a scam,” the Federal Trade Commission warned in a December 2020 notice.

In 2018, the FTC took legal action against My Online Business Education and Digital Altitude, which purported to help entrepreneurs start online businesses. The FTC alleged these companies charged participants more and more money to work through their programs, with few customers earning the promised returns.

In both cases, these operations paid settlements, and the FTC issued refunds to tens of thousands of their customers in 2021 and 2022.

To avoid offers like these, the FTC recommends that you:

  • Be wary of anyone who tries to upsell you right away or pressures you to make a quick decision.

  • Search for reviews of the person or organization online.

  • Research your coach’s background to see if they’ve accomplished as much as they say.

Sunwoo says to also be skeptical of one-size-fits-all solutions. A coach should customize their advice to your personality and skill set, not ask you to conform to theirs.

“The moment that a business coach pushes you to do something that is really not compatible with your personality or your beliefs or values,” Sunwoo says, “that’s a huge problem.”

How to find the right coach — maybe for free

Here’s how to find a coach that will be as helpful as possible.

Determine whether you need advice or to hire someone. A coach isn’t the right fit for every business owner. If you need hands-on help organizing your business finances, for instance, you may need a bookkeeping service or accountant. And take legal questions to an attorney.

Seek out the right expertise. A good coach should be aware of what they don’t know. If they’re not a good fit for your needs — whether that’s expertise in a particular industry or a specialized skill set, like marketing — they might be able to refer you to someone who’s a better fit.

Consider free options. There may be some in your city or region:

  • SCORE offers free in-person and virtual mentoring in all 50 states, plus Guam, Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories.

  • See if your city has a Small Business Development Center, Veterans Business Outreach Center or a Women’s Business Center. All are funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration and offer free training and advising for entrepreneurs.

  • Do an online search for city- or state-specific programs. Philadelphia, for example, offers a business coaching program designed for entrepreneurs who want to qualify for particular business loan programs. Business incubators often offer courses or coaching.

Make sure your coach is invested in you. They should take the time to learn about you, your business and its unique needs, then leverage their own experiences and creativity to help you.

“I’m on your team now,” Robinson says of his clients. “Let’s do this together and make this a success.”


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Starting A Business

Are There SBA Loans for the Self-Employed?



Many of the same SBA loans are available to both self-employed people and more formally structured businesses, such as limited liability companies and corporations. However, self-employed individuals, like sole proprietors and independent contractors, might face a higher barrier to entry for having limited credit history, inconsistent revenue or no collateral. If they can’t qualify for an SBA loan, other business financing options are available.

Who qualifies as self-employed?

Sole proprietors, independent contractors and partnerships all fall under the self-employed category. In these cases, there is no legal distinction between the business owner and the business itself. Sole proprietors, for example, are solely responsible for their business’s gains and losses, while LLCs and corporations are legally distinct from their owners. This distinction helps protect the owners’ personal assets if their business runs into legal or financial issues.

Are self-employed SBA loans hard to get?

While a sole proprietorship is much easier to set up than an LLC or corporation, lenders may be more hesitant to finance them for a few reasons:

  • Self-employed business owners are legally responsible, as individuals, for any debt and liabilities that their businesses take on. If someone sues their business, for instance, their personal assets — not just their business — could be at stake. This makes it riskier for lenders to finance them.

  • Sole proprietorships and independent contracting businesses may have lower revenue or less collateral to offer since they’re often a business of one. This could make it more difficult for them to prove that they can pay back the loan, plus interest. And it may require more paperwork.

  • Some banks set lending minimums that surpass what a self-employed business owner is looking for, either because the business owner doesn’t need that much funding or doesn’t qualify for it.

  • Since there is no legal distinction between the self-employed business owner and their business, they may lack business credit history. To establish business credit, you’ll want to register the business, obtain an employer identification number and open a separate business bank account and credit card to keep your business and personal finances separate.

SBA loans for the self-employed

SBA microloan: Best for small loans and more lenient requirements

Applying for an SBA microloan is a great option for self-employed business owners, especially if they’ve been turned down by traditional banks and don’t need more than $50,000 in funding. In fact, the average SBA microloan is around $13,000, according to the SBA. SBA microloans are administered by nonprofit, community-based organizations that can also help train applicants in business practices and management. And because the loans are small, the application process may be easier — applicants may have limited credit history and typically don’t need as high of a credit score as they do for an SBA 7(a) loan.

SBA 7(a) small loan: May not require collateral

Funds from the SBA’s most popular 7(a) lending program can be used for a variety of business-related purposes, such as working capital or purchasing equipment. While the maximum SBA 7(a) loan amount is $5 million, SBA 7(a) small loan amounts don’t exceed $350,000. And if the 7(a) small loan is for $25,000 or less, the SBA doesn’t require lenders to take collateral.

SBA Express loan: Best for quicker application process

SBA Express loans are a type of 7(a) loan for businesses that need quick financing and no more than $500,000. The SBA responds to these loan applications within 36 hours as opposed to the standard five to 10 days, which may speed up the process for borrowers working with non-SBA-delegated lenders. Additionally, borrowers might not have to fill out as much paperwork — the SBA only requires Form 1919. Beyond that, lenders use their own forms and procedures.

SBA loan alternatives

Online lenders

Self-employed business owners turned down for SBA or traditional bank loans may be able to qualify for financing with an online lender. These lenders offer options such as term loans and lines of credit, and they often process applications faster and have more lenient requirements. However, applicants should expect to pay significantly more in interest than they would with an SBA loan.

Business credit cards

Not only can business credit cards help build your business credit history and pay for everyday business purchases, but they can also help finance larger purchases (within your approved credit limit). And if you qualify for a credit card with a 0% introductory APR offer, you’ll have multiple months to pay off the balance interest-free. Just make sure you’re able to pay off your purchase before the intro offer ends and a variable APR sets in.


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