I Got Approved! But Now I Have A Problem..suggestions Plz!

Business By SugarNSpiceDiva Updated 21 Dec 2009 , 2:23pm by ThreeDGirlie

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SugarNSpiceDiva Posted 16 Dec 2009 , 7:42am
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<Insert freakishly loud girlie scream here> lol icon_lol.gificon_lol.gificon_lol.gif

So, I got approved for my vendor's license to sell cakes! (I guess the army doesn't have to follow state rules, cuz all you have to do to sell them here is get a food handler's card and get your application approved by a board of different people from legal people to whoever, anyway, they said it wasn't easy so yay for me!)

I'm am SO excited! The only problem is when I put down my pricing, it was about $1 per serving (I know, I know icon_redface.gif the flaming line starts here ----> lol). I already got myself yelled at by my bff for making my pricing too low. I told her that I've seen so many cakes from people on here that I can't even compare to, and I just wanted to price lower because I don't have as much experience. She told me I can't really compare myself to people who have been doing this for 10+ years. icon_rolleyes.gif

But on a great note, the guy I turned my app into said that my cakes were the best he's seen come through his office (now I don't know about that, but it sure did make me feel good). There's actually a whole lot of people on this post who do cakes, and I just thought there would be people a lot better than me. I did put in the app that I wanted to expand my business to more intricate designs and other stuff, so hopefully that will give me wiggle room for change. I'm starting off simple, then when I get more "real" experience and confidence, then I'll move on to other things. Also, I am just going to start with friends, aquaintances and DH's co-workers. Not to hard of a clientele.

I just HAD to tell someone, cuz I'm am WAY too excited!!! I can't believe this is my first step to my dream of having my own bakery and being a PROFESSIONAL cake designer.

But also, I'm looking for a little feedback on the price thing. My bff was SO ticked at me for making it so low. So, per her request, we are going to sit down and run some numbers. lol. I'm not near as good as I want to be yet. I only wanted to sell them, b/c I need the financial support. I've literally became OBSESSED with cakes, and it's pretty expensive. Plus, people want cakes from me, and I don't want to do it for free.

Sorry so long. So what do yall think? I have some pictures of my work. How much would be a better price for someone like me to start off with?

17 replies
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SugarNSpiceDiva Posted 16 Dec 2009 , 9:29am
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No suggestions? Anybody? I'm sorta desperate here. lol. I'm already approved. The lady said my approval letter should be in the mail this week. And I want to be prepared, cuz DH is all excited and says he's gonna announce my "opening" to his co-workers. (For just his unit, that's over 100 people!)

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masturbaker Posted 16 Dec 2009 , 9:52am
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hey Diva.. wow.. sorry no one has responded.. it's like a ghost town in here! well, I personally think you're totally underpricing yourself.. I charge $2.25 per serving for buttercream and $3 for fondant cakes... and those are just my minimums!
that's on par with other "cakers" in my area... some boutique bakeris charge up to $6-8 per serving.. and more..

there is another lady here who completely undercuts all of us and charges $1 per serving for buttercream!! and $2 for fondant!!! her cakes are ok.. nothing glamorous, but damn! That's crazy.. i'm not sure how she makes any money!.... and it's not good for the rest of us who're trying to make a real go of this.

anway, from your cakes you look like you're doing pretty well. If I were you I would charge at least $2 per serving for buttercream cakes and about $3 per serving for fondant cakes.. you charge more for flowers and unusual designs or 3D cakes that you carve.

I think by charging only $1 you're completely undervaluing your work! even $2 for a custom made cake is a steal! I think by charging only $1 you're telling people that you're not that good and "just practicing".. forget that! You look like you do good work! Also, if you start out at $1 per serving it's going to be harder to raise your prices significantly later.... people will expect to pay that price.

I really hope you reconsider charging that! I say at least $2 per serving for you buttercream.. more for fondant!

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SugarNSpiceDiva Posted 16 Dec 2009 , 10:50am
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Mr. masterbaker ( icon_redface.gif lol I'm sorry, I can't even type that without my face turning red. ha ha)

Thank you so much for your reply! It IS a ghost town around here. lol I spend all day with the kids, and I'm an insomniac at night, so I guess it's my fault for posting so late. Plus I "talk? type?" too much, so my post is really long. lol.

And thank you for your compliments! I'm sorry. I didn't realize that it was undercutting others. I was just so overwhelmed with the "oh crap, I can really do this!" syndrome, and I'm definitely my biggest critic when it comes to my own work. I just see other CC's work, and think, Wow, I don't even come close to that!

This is kind of an emotional thing for me, because I REALLY want to make a career of this. I REALLY want to do well and sell a lot of cakes. I thought about raising them later, but I didn't think it would be an issue.

I am going to take your advice though (even though I'm still nervous, lol). I don't think my bff would allow me NOT to icon_rolleyes.gif ! As soon as I get my approval letter in, I have to go to the office to get my hard copy of my license. I'll talk to the lady about what I have to do to make changes to the business, if anything at all. They are pretty laid back here. Actually I WAS thinking of $1 for bc and $2 for fondant, but I think you're right. Markin em up a dollar would definitely be better.

Thank you again! I'm pretty scared to raise my prices. But I have to admit, I do work my butt off on the cakes I do, even if they aren't as good as other people's. I'm constantly practicing and getting better.

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Classycakes Posted 16 Dec 2009 , 12:31pm
post #5 of 18

Congratulations SugarNSpice!!! You're on your way to a whole new adventure!! You've past the hobby phase and now you're in the business phase. It's a totally different place to be.

My best advice to you is don't sell yourself and your product short. Work out your numbers and make sure you not only cover the cost of your ingredients but also your time. You wouldn't work for anyone else for free so don't work for yourself free. You'll only end up resenting the time and effort you put into it.

Charge a fair market value right from the start. It's so much harder to raise prices when you get an established clientelle so come up with prices now that you think will cover all your time and expenses for at least a year or so. Your regular customers won't like constant price increases until you find your comfort level so just establish those prices right from the start. It's better for them to adjust to you than for you to adjust to them!

You can always advertise "specials" - like 10% off your order if booked in January or February. But make sure everyone knows your regular prices and then show the discount.

Do up a form letter that you can either email to them or even read/reference from when you get telephone enquiries. Put in information such as your starting prices, your delivery policy, your consultation policy, and VERY IMPORTANT make sure you establish a deposit policy right from the start. The only "confirmed" order should be one that has the deposit paid. If you want to pm me, I'll send you a copy of mine that briefly touches on all those things - it has proven invaluable to me as it really weeds out those who are truly interested in booking and those who are "just looking".

My best sales tool is my website so start thinking about setting something up. Most customers check my business out first by looking at my website and the cake pictures on it and then they contact me for more information if they like what they see. It's OK to start out small and then add more pictures as you go.

I started my business by posting fliers wherever I saw a bulletin board - supermarket, doctor's office, office buildings - even my husband's on-line message board at work that employees use for "buy & sell" type things. Then I found a local wedding website (like "The Knot" only local to my province) and that proved more valuable than anything.

Always, always be professional - they are customers first (even if they are friends).

I wish you the very best in your new business. Embrace the challenges and enjoy the rewards!!

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Wesha Posted 16 Dec 2009 , 3:00pm
post #6 of 18

First of all, Congratulations. I am so happy for you. I hope you do really well with your cake business. You should raise your prices though. You should at least start around $2.50 per serving for buttercream and $3.50 for fondant and then if you want to increase your prices later on, then you can. The reason that I say this is because if you start off at $1.00 per serving, then after time has passed and you get swamped with orders and your skills improve over time; (not saying that you don't have skills, because you do) and you want to increase your prices, the people may not want to pay.

Again, I hope you do really well. Congrats again.

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LaBellaFlor Posted 16 Dec 2009 , 4:32pm
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You are in California. Even with access to the commissary pricing, things still aren't cheap out there. SO, I'm going to tell you what I tell everyone who says, cause they're new, they are going to start off cheap,"If you feel cause you inexpierenced to charge a proper amount, then you have no business selling cakes. If you can do the cake that is requested, no problems, then you charge full amount, period". For those of you who are now going to tell me I'm being rude, I don't care. I'ld rather you think me rude and me be honest, then watch SugarNSpiceDiva lose a bunch of money and lose her desire for caking. I've watched since you first startered coming on here. I know this is something you've been wanting. I wish you Good Luck and great success...which you will only be by the way, once you get a business mentality and raise your prices.

And tell your BFF I LOVE her. icon_wink.gif

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masturbaker Posted 16 Dec 2009 , 5:51pm
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Hey Diva.. I agree with LaBella, If you REALLY think your work is not sellable then you shouldn't be selling them. Just make cakes for people for "practice" and maybe just charge for ingredients or something...

BUT, I think your cakes are totally sellable. And while you may not have A LOT of experience, new techniques and perfecting others will come with time... It looks like you're missing stacked cakes and such from your portfolio.. and that's ok. Most "regular" cakes aren't stacked or tiered anyway... most people want "regular" cakes for their birthdays and such.. But you do better than regular cakes I can tell you now.

I can feel your excitement! And I'm happy for you, and yes i would look at other "cakers" and bakeries in your area to see what they charge per serving and base your prices on that.

Good Luck! Let us know when you do your first big sale!

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SugarNSpiceDiva Posted 17 Dec 2009 , 9:08am
post #9 of 18

First, I just wanted to thank all of you for your compliments and advice! All of my continuous learning and improvements came because of all of you wonderful cakers here on CC! We live in BFE (almost literally! lol), so all I really have is CC. I really spend a good portion of my day when I'm not takin care of the kids or doin schoolwork (and even then sometimes icon_redface.gif ) on CC. I think that might be a good thing and a bad thing. It sure has taught me a lot and helped me improve, but I see everyone else's gorgeous artwork and realize I have a LONG way to go!

Ms. LaBellaFlor - I don't think you are rude at all. You are actually one of my favorite cakers here! icon_biggrin.gif I prefer someone to tell me like it is rather than "sugarcoat" it for me. How else will I learn the right way? And you're right, I do want this. SO badly. lol. I've become obsessed with cakes (makin em, not eatin em. lol). Does anyone remember Sister Act when Whoopie Goldburg told the girl "If when you wake up, all you can think about is singin, then you supposed to be a singer girl!" I've been thinkin about that lately, cuz from the time I wake up to the time I go to sleep, even if I'm doin other stuff, I'm always thinkin about my next cake, something I want to learn or how I can improve. Maybe that's weird icon_redface.gif but its ok. lol.

As for my work, I'm definitely not as good as I want to. But DH reminded me of a lady we saw here on post who sells cakes. She made $98 off a quarter sheet cake! And it horrible! Messed up icing, sloppy piping and writing. But people buy them at that price, cuz she makes a certain flavor of cake from scratch. icon_surprised.gif DH was like, if she can sell some ugly scratch cakes for that much, then you damn sure can sell yours for that much too! lol.

The good news is I just got my approval letter today! Woohoo! icon_lol.gificon_lol.gif So tomorrow, I just gotta take it up to the office and get my hard copy of my license, follow their regulations stated in the letter and this girl is legit! In the letter, it specified changes that needed to be requested first, but it didnt say anything about prices. So Im going to take everyones advice and when I go up there, Im gonna make sure I can change them to $2.00 for bc and $3.00 for fondant BASE price. Unfortunately for me, there is a lady here who charges WAY under $1 per serving for her cakes (I mean, like for her prices, some are even .50 per serving)! She does do good work, but most of it is grocery store like cakes, and Im pretty sure she has an edible printer and a kopykake machine. But there is another lady here who charges a lot more, like $3 bc and $4 fondant and shes really good. So Im hopin to get my niche somewhere in between.

Also, to make myself feel better, and still not be the cheap lady in town (cant really do that. Lol), Im gonna follow Classycakes advice and offer discounts. We are getting the design together for my business cards, so maybe like put a thing on the back of the first 15 or 20 that has a 25%-35% off thing for it. That way I feel better, and other people think they are getting a great deal! lol. By the time those run out, Ill have a lot more cakes under my belt. Also, Im thinkin about doing discount promotions every month, but Im gonna watch the market and find out what is popular when first.

Mr. masterbaker I do plan to get some stacked cakes in. Right now, Im just going to be doing birthday and event cakes till I feel comfortable in my abilities to do more important cakes. But Ive definitely got some stacked cakes on my list to work on. Plus, Im fully aware of my skill level. If someone tries to order a cake I dont feel confident about, then I simply turn it down. Period. BUT that gives me the perfect reason to do some practice cakes and become confident! So all the orders I will be taking WILL be sellable! icon_biggrin.gif

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SugarNSpiceDiva Posted 17 Dec 2009 , 9:15am
post #10 of 18

OH Ms. LaBellaFlor I forgot! I told my BFF, and she laughed. She said I talk about my friends on CC WAY too much and she's getting jealous! lol. icon_rolleyes.gif

As for the conversation we had about prices, this is basically how the beginning of the conversation went:

Me: I got my approval for my license!
Her: Yay! How much are you chargin (first question right? lol)
Me: $1 per serving
Her: You're kidding right?
Me: Umm, no.
Her: Sweetie, I thought you was in college for business and accounting!
Me: I am.
Her: You better get your butt back to class and fix those numbers!

LOL. I love her too! icon_redface.gif

I'm sorry I talk (type) so much everybody. You are all awesome for putting up with me. lol.

So, how do yall think I'm doin with my changes? I so excited about tomorrow! Thanks SO MUCH again everyone for everything! Yall are the best! icon_biggrin.gif

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CakeWhizz Posted 17 Dec 2009 , 10:20am
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Hi there,

I can't really respond directly to your post as I live in the UK but I will suggest you start by first finding out what the HIGH END cake makers in your area charge. Then work out how much your fixed costs (rent, business rates/taxes, bills, etc), your set up costs (dummies, equipment etc) transportation, maintenance costs, accountant's fees, lawyer's fees are and how many orders you will need to a per week/per month to break even/cover your costs. You will be shocked at how that works out and that's without factoring your time per hour! Even basic ingredient costs do mount up and once you get going you might even need to hire some extra help from time to time.
No matter what you do, don't start out cheap as it's difficult to raise your prices afterwards.
I wish you the very best!

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kiwigal81 Posted 17 Dec 2009 , 11:59am
post #12 of 18

Hahah, Oh SugarnSpice, no-one wants to be the cheap lady in town icon_eek.gif
Congratulations on your achievement! Awesome! I don't know much about cakes, but I know this: Never undersell yourself. It's much easier to drop prices than raise them, in anything, because *if* you drop them, people are overjoyed, and if you raise them, people get peeved! I'm off to look at your cakes nowicon_smile.gif

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brincess_b Posted 17 Dec 2009 , 4:06pm
post #13 of 18

im glad you have realised you must charge proper prices.
but please dont just charge an arbitary amount ($2, $2.50, $3 whatever) cause its a general starting price for a lot of cake businesses.

buinesses who charge have sat down and priced out THEIR costs, THEIR time, not just gone, well the cheapest lady is $1, the most expensive is $4 (look off base (i assume you are on one?) too - you need a wide clientele to survive and really make it a strong business), well we can be somewhere inbetween.

just make sure you take up your friends offer of number crunching, once you add up all the trips to the store, price of power, toothpicks and other seemingly small costs, you will be surprised. and it is better to understand your pricing properly, so that if a customer questions you, you dont go blank and think, 'uh, why do i charge $2.50 a serving?!'

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masturbaker Posted 18 Dec 2009 , 6:58am
post #14 of 18

So, where are you exactly? If you don't mind me asking... sounds like you're with your husband somewhere crazy!... Must be exciting though!

Again, I can feel how excited you are and I'm still the same way.. always looking forward to my next cake...

Definitely see what other people are charging and use that as a guide, but obviously you want to make a profit, so you need to figure out what each cake costs you to make and go from there.

And there is no need to be nervous about stacked cakes.. the only difference between a stacked cake and one that isn't is support. and putting the dowels in takes literally less than 5 minutes... the trick is to get the levels straight and centered.

a great tutorial for this is on youtube from Edna... she's great and a really good teacher. She has all her tutorials on youtube.. I've found her to be VERY helpful!

Good luck!

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Nchanted1 Posted 18 Dec 2009 , 11:09am
post #15 of 18

Congrats on your new business!!! I hope you'll be a roaring success. I have one tip for you, but it's IMPORTANT.


Discounts never go away, and you can't control them. Say you give someone a card that says 25% discount on your order. You have a $30 birthday cake in mind, which would be $7.50. But the girl with the card wants a $500 wedding cake. Did you mean to give away $100?

The cake is fabulous, and her Bridesmaid, also engaged, asks for your number. She is handed the card. Another $500 wedding cake, another $100 lost!

Everyone knows that coupons are only good once, and that they expire. Also, they are for a set amount, say $5 or $10. Limits your exposure, yet still builds good will. HTH

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love2makecakes Posted 18 Dec 2009 , 3:14pm
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Wow! Congrats to you! I can really feel your excitement while reading your posts! It reminds me how I felt when I opened my business a couple of years ago.

Like others have already said... Do not start off low and then try to add. I did that, got lots of orders for crazy cakes (like, hey I watch a lot of those cake shows and I want one) for $60! Yep $60. I would work on them all night long and be missing time with my family to barely cover the costs not to mention the time I spent. So what happened from that is that that person told her friends who told their friends that we have this lady who can do really cool cakes and she doesn¡¦t charge that much! Now I have since raised my prices and have people who will not order after they hear the price anymore... I could have avoided the disappointment had I just started charging what they are worth.

Also, sit down and really do the math! I have a separate commercial kitchen in my home so I just always assumed I was making money because I didn¡¦t have as much overhead as some others, but there are tons more to consider than just rent. I pay for licensing, utilities, supplies, insurance, time spent traveling around getting stuff, time spent thinking of how exactly support a cake, researching how something is done, trying new recipes, etc¡K. What I have personally realized is that after adding up all that stuff I really needed to charge more! Hopefully, you are starting off at a good point so you don¡¦t have to look back and regret that you didn¡¦t.

I will say this too about experience¡K Everything I learned about cakes is either from books or here on cakecentral. If I see a cake I want to do and do not know how or what they used I get on here and find out how. I have been making cakes for 2 years now (selling cakes I guess), I look back at my first cakes and think wow! I have come a long way in just 2 years! So when I see some of the cakes on here and think wow! I really wish I could do cakes like that, I just remember that everyone starts off somewhere and maybe in another 2 years I will make even better cakes!

Wow! That got long¡K sorry.

PS ¡V I am always saying to my husband that the people on CC say to do this and say to do that! Ha! I might sit around silently on here a lot, but I love reading all the great posts and responses. º

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SugarNSpiceDiva Posted 21 Dec 2009 , 1:45pm
post #17 of 18

Hi everybody!

My apologies for disappearing around here for the past couple of days. I've been tied up with finals and gettin ready to travel for the holidays. ouch.gifouch.gif

My mind has been BOGGLED with numbers from studying for my accounting final, so my sweet BFF ran some "preliminary" numbers for me for the pricing icon_biggrin.gif . Generally, she said I could get away with charging $2 - $2.25 for BC +$1 for fondant, but she said that's even pushing it. I think she's biased, so I'm gonna do a more thorough calculation during Christmas break to make sure. I did get my license! icon_lol.gif I'm legal. I'm really excited, but I know now I gotta "get down to business" (pun kinda intended. lol) DH is designing me some flyers and business cards while I get the details worked out.

As for other bakers, my competition, I was only able to find 3 LEGAL companies from here to Barstow. Two are here (the ones I mentioned in an earlier post) and there is one in Barstow that has a storefront. Them and one lady here on post are really good and charge accordingly. However, the one here on post doesn't market herself at all. I found her by talking to a lady at the commissary bakery here. The other lady here is ok I guess, but charges crazy low. So, my BFF's estimate is right there in the middle.

Mr. masterbaker - I don't mind at all. As a matter of fact, it should be in my info under my avatar (or lack of. lol) We are in Fort Irwin, CA dead center in the Mojave Desert. And there is definitely NOTHING exciting about this place. lol. The only good thing is we are halfway between LA and Vegas. But that doesn't really help us either with 4 kids in the house. lol. Thank you for the link. I've seen a few of Ms. Edna's videos. I learn a lot from her. icon_biggrin.gif

Nchanted1 - Thank you! That does help. I didnt think about that. Even though I wont be doing any wedding cakes for a while, I can definitely see your point. Although I could foresee problems with the $ amount off as well (like $10 of a $40 cake, hypothetically). But Im sure I could incorporate both methods with limitations printed on the coupons. Like $10 off a cake between such amount and such amount. You are right though. Putting them ON the business cards might not be the best idea. Then, Id have to take the card back. Lol.

I know Ive said it probably a million times before, but thank you all for your help! Ive concluded that, even if I get a lot of requests, Im more than likely not going to be taking on a bunch of orders first starting out (maybe 1 or 2 a week?). Dont get me wrong, Im confident (maybe too confident icon_wink.gif lol) that given the time, patience and a bit of research and help from wonderful people here on CC, I could make a gorgeous piece of art out of whatever someone throws at me. I have been baking since I can remember, but Ive only been creating art out of baking for nearly a year. The cakes in my photos are pretty much firsts for me. So I definitely want to spend just as much time, if not more practicing than selling. But Im so excited to be officially started on my journey to my goal!

Crlovescakes - I like your method on experience! That was pretty much my plan too. Lol. Your cakes look like youve been doing this SO much longer. Their gorgeous! I definitely aspire to be that good in two years!

Oh, Mr. masterbaker - As for the stacked cakes, DH and I have plans in the works for one soon. Actually, we have a couple on my Cake Idea To Do List. Thats my list that has ideas and any techniques I want to learn. The list is ever expanding, since everyone I know contributes to it. Lol. But I really want to do one soon for picture purposes. Hopefully when the business really gets going, I start being able to post a lot more along with my "just because" practice cakes.

Ok, so that was long again. icon_redface.gif Thanks so much again everyone! Now I have a general idea for pricing. Im still working on it. But, of course, I definitely appreciate ANY advice yall might have for pricing or otherwise! icon_biggrin.gif

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ThreeDGirlie Posted 21 Dec 2009 , 2:23pm
post #18 of 18

Please crunch your numbers before you sell a cake. I can tell you that I live in a rural area with moderate ingredient pricing, and my COST is ~$1.00/serving on my regular flavors. My specialty flavors and any extra fillings, etc cost more, so I charge more for them...

Best of luck to you in gettig your business off the ground!

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