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Jean-Paul Gedeon

Jean-Paul Gedeon is the CEO at JPG Media, one of Hawaii’s most unique print and design B2B service companies, and a member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization of Hawaii. From an early age, Jean-Paul was an entrepreneur. His high school project quickly turned into a successful business, and this experience gave him the necessary skills to begin JPG Media. He invented and successfully patented the “Super Divider,” a grocery checkout divider used to display advertising in supermarket checkouts.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Jean-Paul Gedeon tells of his first taste of entrepreneurship and becoming a Blockbuster Video Game Champion
  • How a little innovation scaled a graphics company from the ground up
  • Jean-Paul details how he overcame obstacles to create a unique marketing product
  • The importance of a peer-to-peer network of entrepreneurs

In this episode…

What can you do to optimize your marketing strategy? Do you want solutions to the challenges and problems you’re facing with targeting your audience?

Jean-Paul Gedeon saw a gap in the market for an innovative and unique marketing product — a double-sided shelf rail for advertising brands at eye-level. As a seasoned entrepreneur, Jean-Paul knew the steps to patent and manufacture his product. He made an effort to understand and measure what drives consumers and boosts performance. How did he do it?

On this episode of the Rising Entrepreneurs Podcast, John Corcoran sits down with Jean-Paul Gedeon, entrepreneur and CEO of JPG Media. Jean-Paul shares the inspiring story of his journey from starting a high school brand and turning it into an enduring enterprise, how to mitigate obstacles in product marketing, and the Entrepreneurs’ Organization as a tool for growth.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

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Episode Transcript

Intro  0:02  

Welcome to the Rising Entrepreneurs Podcast where we feature top founders and entrepreneurs and their journey. Now let’s get started with the show.

John Corcoran  0:13  

Alright, welcome everyone, John Corcoran here on the Co-host of this show, check out some of my past interviews. We’ve got all kinds of great interviews in the archives with founders or CEOs or entrepreneurs from Netflix, Kinkos, YPO, EO Activision Blizzard, lending tree and many more. And this is part of our GLC series Global Leadership Conference series. Now the Global Leadership Conference, or GLC is a conference for emerging business leader leaders is put on on by the Entrepreneurs Organization EO each year, I’m a member of EO our guests as member of EO I will be attending this year’s event. And we created this series to highlight this upcoming conference. So if you’re a member of EO Entrepreneurs Organization, it is from April 23 to 26th 2022. It’s both in Washington, DC and Barcelona, Spain and virtually so you can participate whatever way that you prefer, go to eonetwork.org. And my guest here today is Jean-Paul Gedeon. He is CEO of JPG Media is Hawaii’s fastest growing out of home media agencies a member of EO Hawaii. He started it back in 2000. And it was a high school passion project that has moved into being a multi million dollar business. And also fun fact, he is the inventor, and also patented the super divider, which was an innovation because in Hawaii, you can’t have out of home billboards, they’re not allowed. So you have to get innovative. So we’re gonna talk a little bit all about that experience. Jean-Paul is such a pleasure to have you here today. First before I get into how you started it what eventually became a multimillion dollar business. In high school. I certainly was doing anything like that. At 12 years old you were O’ahu’s Blockbuster Video Game champion at 12 years old. So first of all, how did that come about?

Jean-Paul Gedeon  1:59  

So for all the listeners who actually know what Blockbuster is, it was a video rental store. Yeah, it’s like Netflix. But you have to go to the store. Right? Right is awful. The library?

John Corcoran  2:13  

Yes, I Fun fact, I’ve been to the last one in the world. It’s in Bend, Oregon. And I heard they have a billboard that says call us up. You know what I mean?

Jean-Paul Gedeon  2:14  

Yeah, exactly. A call go rhythm not algorithm. Yeah. Algorithm. Right. So okay, I’m 12 years old and NBA Jam basketball game on Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo. Were the hot thing Super Mario Brothers three came out with the movie The Wiz or the wizard. Clay fighter Sonic the Hedgehog. All these fast games, right? So I’m a gamer. Since I was a little kid probably like us. Five years old. There’s a story. When like Mom, mom, I got three brothers, four of us. My mom said what we say Hey, Mom, you know we want to get a Nintendo just came out want to get a Nintendo. She’s like, Good, great. Buy it yourself. Like, okay, so we lived on a community right on the golf course. So we would go and grab the golf balls from the ponds where you know, the golfers would lose them would wash them up, bag them up with sell it $5 For the bag. Golfers loved it. They were giving us 10 bucks, like oh great, you know, young business people making something yourself. Fast forward. We actually bought our Nintendo and immediately just got hooked. You know, video games gonna rot your brain is what they used to say. Okay, sure. We got super addicted. Fast forward seven years. You know, we got Sega Genesis, we’re playing these games. I want thrill I’m moving fast on Sonic the Hedgehog Mario trying to beat the time. This thing comes out called the Blockbuster Video Game championship, World Video Game championship. I got to enter. So I didn’t know there was a huge age range, but I was 12 years old. So I was in the summer of sixth grade. Like I just got a sixth grade. And from my local area called Hawaii Kai in Hawaii Island of O’ahu and Honolulu. I’m competing so I’m playing NBA Jam and Super Mario Brothers and Mario Kart. Oh, we’re going I win. What was the price? I got a free video game and like a big bag of popcorn. And like bragging rights. That was it. Right? All right. All right, who’s my competitor? Like the guy that won? he was like 20 I’m 12 Like, okay, this is pretty cool. So they have the state championship, and we go it’s called all them wanna center. The US is largest outdoor shopping center. We go there we’re playing on center stage, that a big jumbo Cha Tron Type screen, the projector type of real old school like wood paneling. This is like 90s Right? Yeah, probably make it sound worse than it is. But it was dope the news where they’re playing. I won for my area. And then when we’re playing states, I gotta say, this is what changed me in the business. I was gaming so much and I was an NBA Jam. Go. It’s like 78 to 79 or something and I get one point over. I thought I won. Slam Dunk NBA Jam, boom. But there was a half a second at the buzzer. And anyone who knows how to play video games, you got that half buzzer, you do a wild shot from the other side of the court. The guy threw it. Boom, he beat me by one point because got a three pointer, crushed my dreams. This 20 year old guy beat a 12 year old, I thought I was the man. And I got quickly. Reality checked. I was like, I’m not playing video games anymore. I’m gonna focus on making money. That would be my score. That was that was the the video game champions chip story. I should have stayed in it. I would probably make millions faster.

John Corcoran  5:41  

Yeah, they’re professional gamers these days now, you know, teams even. And so you in high school, you end up starting what became your business now. So how did you get into that?

Jean-Paul Gedeon  5:52  

Alright, well, in Kaiser High School public school, I went the whole public school route my whole life. And they had a class is called Graphic Communications. This is where they had like Photoshop to I think it was back then. And there was a book of clipart where had a bunch of images and you’d have to scan it in and you could manipulate the images. I said, Oh, what if I bring in a Volcom shirt. Volcom is a surf brand. It was really cool at the time. So I would get my friends all the girls and guys to give me their blank shirts. And I would learn how to print t shirts in the class. They had the machines. So I would set up shirts, I started printing their shirts, I was bootleg and Volcom shirts. And I would just start making my own design and put the Volcom logo. So this is pretty cool. So eBay came out. PayPal came out and I got a vinyl cutter. That’s where you can make you know vinyl decals. I started making these big two foot as the biggest I could make a sticker two foot Volcom stone stickers. I’ll throw them up on eBay. 25 bucks a pop. Choose any color of the vinyl I like 10 vinyl colors. In two weeks, I made 800 bucks. On my prom. I’m on a roll. This is it. This is how I’m gonna do it. I don’t care if I’m bootlegging. I log into my yahoo email to check my orders. Frozen gives me my eBay was frozen. My PayPal was frozen. I go to my Yahoo account. My email there’s a beautifully written cease and desist from Vulcans lawyer saying we know that you bootleg and because we don’t sell stickers. You need to get them at our events. Please stop. Here’s the number to your local rep call them they will give you free stickers. Just don’t go and sell them. Hmm. I think this is crazy. So I called him up. I think the guy’s name was Kyani he said, Yeah, sure. I’ll give you some stickers, man. But why? Why are you selling our stickers online? Like you know, you’re gonna get busted? Yeah, I know. He’s like, you just do your own thing. I mean, you’re making designs. I started a clothing brand. Right then is called Idel. That’s one of our hats. I started with clothing. I thought had nice shirts are really cool. That’s a cool one living the surfskate yet, you know,

John Corcoran  7:56  

like for those listening to this is kind of a black baseball hat with a Hawaiian print on the brim. And it says life with a surfer as as the eye

Jean-Paul Gedeon  8:04  

Yeah, so you can tell it’s like the surfing life. Right? Yeah, just pretty universal right there. Well, fast forward from that I am selling.

John Corcoran  8:15  

Let me ask you about that. So when you switch from the Volcom I imagined it you’re developing your own brand. Did it take a lot longer than to develop your own brand?

Jean-Paul Gedeon  8:24  

No, I was already making designs all I had to do was just stop putting a logo on my designs.

John Corcoran  8:29  

So it’s you still are able to make money just probably charging maybe less or premium?

Jean-Paul Gedeon  8:34  

Yeah, absolutely. I was making less money because no one knew of my brand. So I had to really go out and market when I was selling Volcom I just knew that there was a demand for these cool stickers. I would type in you know, put the search term in my heading my description and all that on eBay and people would buy it. I’m out there. I’ve got to promote my own brand. And it was fun. You know, I wanted to just I was part of my own market surfing skating in Hawaii want to meet girls and go to the beach and party and all that. So it was fun, but I’m making like selling like 50 shirts a month. I get an order because we’re making shirts and stickers so people see it in my local community like the quality. A local restaurant a high end restaurant called Roy’s had a no I learned Roy’s Yeah, yeah, Roy’s started in sorry in Hawaii Yamaguchi. Right. He Roy Yamaguchi Yeah, yeah, they started in Hawaii and then then Outback did a licensing deal and then spread them across the US big deal. Well, the they said well, we’re gonna have our because a 20th anniversary. We need 1400 shirts. I said Oh, wow. Yep, that opportunity called like, I’ll do 1400 shirts, and I lowballed that deal like I charge like $4.50 I made like $1 shirt. I should have charged like 10 bucks he shared but I didn’t know the pricing back then for like that many shirts. Yeah, I just brokered it. I used to print shirts in my garage and my kitchen. That’s how we started. I just brokered this my mom found a Vietnamese warehouse it did screen printing embroidery. So that’s where I learned how to broker deals off of those shirts made a little bit and said, Wait a minute, this is way easier. I’ll just make a little bit of money off a lot of clients and come up with a name. So my initials are Jean, Jean-Paul. Gedeon is my name. So it’s jpg, as JPG, like a picture file. Like man, I’m born for this, I got a name. That’s the most popular graphics file the format. So yeah, that was the beginning of jpg. So really started out. We’re doing graphic design, printing, and then graphic installations. That’s where we really came from 20 years ago. Fast forward, if you want to talk about our media company, our out of home advertising, which is my real passion. Now we still have a very successful printing, design and graphic installation business. That’s a lot of cash flow comes through that. But my new one was I saw an opportunity where we can help accompany from step one to step done. But let’s just say last week, we finished clearing out an Uggs store and those boots for Australia. Mm hmm. And they’re closing down some locations in Hawaii. We do the full demo and demolition, fix the walls, you know, patch the holes, repaint and give them the keys so they can give it back to the landlord. So we’re helping a company from design process, printing whatever graphics wall murals, exterior interior signage, print, collateral, business cards, all of that. But I knew there was something else. I always loved billboards, whenever we traveled to different country, Australia, China, Hong Kong, Costa Rica, Japan, you see these billboards everywhere. But we didn’t have it in Hawaii and

John Corcoran  11:42  

grow up around them. Yeah, cuz

Jean-Paul Gedeon  11:44  

yeah. So I’m like, Whoa, this is huge. How do you print that? I’m used to like a, like a printer that can be like five feet wide. How are these 20 feet. So I’m kind of just fast forwarding a little bit more. Here. We saw an opportunity to work with our existing clientele, which was malls, because we’re doing printing for their posters, supermarkets, we’re doing signs and banners for them. etc, we get our first opportunity to be an out of home advertising company with the comical times supermarket. We just wrapped a big delivery truck box truck for them. And one of my salespeople at the time said, Hey, look at those dividers that separate the grocery, that plastic bar that’s on the conveyor belt that black conveyor belt that separates the grocery. Yeah, I think we could do something with that because Safeway had a company in there called add dividers at the time. I was like, Okay, I’ll check it out. I looked at like, Ah, it’s kind of like cheap. I wanted to have something high end, maybe a luxury type of feel, you know, I didn’t I thought I was like, lower, lower, like level type of advertising. Yeah, I didn’t really want to be a part of it. But they agreed, like say, oh, yeah, why don’t you show us something? So I was like, Okay, I gotta come up with something. Now, they just signed a deal with us like an exclusive agreement, right? So we there got a form. So I go to Safeway. I’m looking at that divider. I say, Okay, there’s a number on it, I’ll call them. So I called the bad dividers. And they’re like, oh, yeah, you know, why don’t you introduce us to your supermarket? And we’ll give you a couple bucks. I’m like, oh, no, how could I just buy some of your dividers and you could be my supplier? I promise I’ll buy more. Like I got, you know, 23 supermarkets. They said, I’m sorry, we don’t sell them. It’s a patented product, and you’re gonna have to go find something elsewhere. Hmm. All right, I’ll go to Alibaba. I’m trying to find that bringing like 10 different types of dividers, and they all come in, they’re just like, not what I’m looking for. They’re big, they’re bulky, I’d have to, if I’m putting an ad on it, I would have to print out a sticker and stick it onto this plastic, wooden or metal divider that I got these samples of. Okay, that’s not going to work. As frustrated, as we all do, as entrepreneurs, you know, we’re, we’re thinking we’re trying to solve a problem to get frustrated, almost burnt out. So I ripped the top of a box off a t shirt box. So I ripped one of the flaps of the cardboard box off. And I head down to Safeway, it’s like 12am, nighttime, probably shouldn’t be there. But no one was there. So I said I could take my time. And I’m going to look at their divider. And I’m going to see what can I do to change it and improve it. So I can, you know, patent it and not get sued or denied. Yeah, so I got a picture. I got the actual divider here. I could show you.

John Corcoran  14:34  

Yeah, so you came up with was more of like, yeah, something a lot taller, higher. Yeah. And you can slide the new Ad into the side. That’s really cool. And so you go and then you have to go, you patented it.

Jean-Paul Gedeon  14:45  

Right. So I patented what I did. I did a patent search because I know how to do trademarks. I’ve done my own trademarks in the past. And so patent was new for me. So all I knew is that okay. I want to create an easier device to advertise As an advertising display, the current ones that were available you it was a piece of black plastic, you need to wrap a sticker on it. I’m thinking, Okay, if I put a sticker on these along like rectangle sticker, there’s gonna be bubbles. It depends who puts it on, it might be crooked, it’s gonna get banged up and the ones on the Safeway didn’t look good. They were all banged up. And we’re in Hawaii. So they don’t have boots on the ground here. So they get banged up, but no one changes us it. Yeah. Because it’s up to the company to change it out. It’s not like safe ways responsibility. Yeah. So I gotta I gotta make something I was I got all these samples in from plastic manufacturers. I’m digging deep. I’m contacting plastic companies asking for referrals. And I’m digging my way down, down down into like, how close can I get to a manufacturer, that an agency is right, where we have agency and broker and work. I know there’s margin, I want to I want to get the best margin. Yeah. I get sent some samples of some, some shelving displays, you know, plastic that slides in the shelf. I got to give props to my wife, Holly, Holly, Gideon. She said, Well, Jean-Paul, you’re doing at the time we were doing advertising on box trucks, you know, the big delivery trucks. Yeah, like FedEx and UPS. And we use what’s called a banner frame, where there’s a frame on the, on the perimeter of the rectangle box on the sides. And you could put a banner and you slide it on like a shower curtain, and then you like, use these clamps and crank it down. And it’s tight as a drum. So say for the highway. He said, Why don’t you do something with magnets, or some way where you can slide the ad in and slide the ad out. I was like, I don’t know, I’m gonna put magnets on a piece of plastic that I got a sample from the plastic manufacturing company that was a shelf label. I looked at it. And I, I took it into Photoshop. And I mirrored it on itself. And I said, aha, this is how we’re going to do it. I’m just going to make a double sided shelf rail. So anyway, fast forward, we’re there, we got this thing, easy to deploy. We ship it out, we like this. We ship these out to our grocery partners. And then when we’re changing ads, we’re either changing the whole divider itself, or we’re just sliding these poster paper. Yeah, actually, like a plastic. Just slide it in. But so it was a need. Right, we had to fulfill that need.

John Corcoran  17:23  

Yeah, it’s fascinating to how you know, you know, the local market conditions, determine the innovation, right? Because you know, why doesn’t have billboards, and, you know, advertising works and and companies want to advertise, so you have to get creative. And then another thing you’ve done is just finding different spaces, like around malls, outside areas, walking areas, finding places where you can place advertisements for different businesses.

Jean-Paul Gedeon  17:48  

Right. And it’s not an easy business, I’d say. For anyone thinking about getting into like an advertising business. It is definitely not. This is the biggest misconception when I see people rolling into the out of home advertising market, especially with digital screens nowadays, you know, you could put in digital screens build a digital network, which we’re doing ourselves. Yeah. I’ve watched companies just come in, spend a lot of money and hope it’s like build it and they will come, huh? No, there’s way too many options for people to advertise. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google, you know, Yelp, there’s too many options. It’s not a build it and they will come sort of scenario. So you’re gonna bend that capex, that capital expenditures? No, don’t you

John Corcoran  18:34
then really had to hustle to convince property owners mall owners to put advertising in places that they hadn’t previously?

Jean-Paul Gedeon  18:44
Well, that’s one huge hurdle. Once you get past that, and you build any spend the money to build out your signage, or whatever it is,

John Corcoran  18:50  

then the other side of the coin is you got to convince the right so it’s a

Jean-Paul Gedeon  18:54  

crazy advertiser. Yeah. So it’s double the work. Yeah. And it’s not as easy to think and it comes in when it comes in flows. But I think with anything as long as you focus on it, like I don’t want to be discouraging, right to everyone, like you could do it. You can do it, or whatever it is. It’s just like any business. You got to constantly be hustle constantly be grinding. Yeah, we’re actually more of Airbnb than we are an advertising business. We’re like a real estate business.

John Corcoran  19:19  

Right? It’s connecting both sides. Don’t talk me. We’re running a little short on time to talk a little bit about how you you’ve been in EO for about four years now how you ended up recovering EO and joining EO and then I want to hear about your experience attending Global Leadership Conference.

Jean-Paul Gedeon  19:34  

I love it. And if you need to edit this down, just take the high clips, you’ll get rid of stuff, right? Why go on tangents, tangent alert level, you know, level 10 meeting right here. Alright, so I’m in EO 2016 was the first year that I joined you. And the way that I heard about it was from actually he’s a friend. He’s also a competitor. His name is Matt Haim. He was the, one of the presidents of EO, Hawaii. And he’s got a business called Han blue. They’re a printing company very similar to ours, much bigger than ours. And we’re in the same AF American advertising Federation. Hmm. Yeah. So he got to know, me and my my brothers, my business partners through a f, we did a large nonprofit campaign. And he’s like, Wow, these guys are like, you know, go getters. And we need some new younger blood. In EO, and you’d be a great fit. For example, you should join he Oh. And at the time, we weren’t at that 1 million mark. I think we were like an 860,000. That’s the number that sticks in my head. And at the time, I’m like, is he just saying that to like, gauge how much we’re making? Or is he kind of like throwing a jab? Like he knows that we’re not at a million so we can’t get in? No, he was genuinely like, wanted us to join. So it’s funny a competitor in our printing industry, he introduced me to it. I looked at the pictures of events like, Hey, I know you, I know you so many of my friends were in it. I didn’t know they were in it. So we hustle hard the next year, you know, crank it up. 140 something 1000 to hit that 1 million boom we’re in. And what happens when you join? You automatically get almost voluntold and heavily suggested you join the board? Huh? So I joined the board communications chair and they said, Hey, we’re going to Toronto, we’re going to are going to Canada. Not easy. If you live in Hawaii. Yeah, I was like, I was like, let’s do it. I totally love leaving. And I love coming back to Hawaii. But I love leaving. And it was like snowing. So I go. And I just met my wife at the time. So leaving was not the easiest thing, you know, in a new relationship or living together. But she said, Yeah, I want to support you go, I went. And I gotta say, GLC, the Global Leadership Conference, or EO Entrepreneurs Organization, was an absolute game changer. How so when I’m gonna have an impacted have on your business? Three things. This is so good. Not only was it business, I got to network with a bunch of people who, when you’re an email member, and you you know about the forum experience, and we, you know, use install and all that. And we actually show kind of what we say open the key mono to the business. I learned so much about other people’s businesses, one that stuck out was a landscaping company and how he gave quotes. Yeah, most landscaping companies are not tech savvy. You gotta call them they don’t call you back hard to get a quote, guy from Texas. He said, Yeah, on my website, we take geospatial data and property records that know that there’s a square footage of your property, it subtracts the square footage of your home. And then it gives you a price per square foot for landscaping as a quick estimate, and then, you know, then they go and refine

John Corcoran  22:52  

it out to I’ve heard about Yeah, companies to do that saves them a visit out to the house

Jean-Paul Gedeon  22:55  

Instant quotes. Yeah. And that was a game changer for me to see. You know what? I do want to get a quote on my landscaping at 11pm. In my underwear. Yes. Right. Right. Right. So that was one that was the business side. More importantly, was my other forum mates, we went up and we bonded, we bonded so tight. And these are guys who are in some of them built their own businesses. Others are multi generational businesses, where they are now assuming the leadership position in their family business that are doing quite well. And other ones were the guys just like me, just like me, we’re coming up started from nothing. I didn’t get a family business. I went public school, and I have a lot of money growing up, right? Mm hmm. And they’re kind of like, pull us up from the bootstraps. So while we’re there, we were hanging out drinking at a pub. And I said, You know what, guys? A couple of my friends. I know if I say their names, you can bleep it out. But no, got one of my friends. Yeah. Brandon, Brandon lamb, Kang Dang, and Gino, Chung. Really good guys from our forum. And Brad Hamasaki. They were in family businesses. And I said, guys, you know, I gotta let you know. I kind of you know, we’re talking I think I was drinking a little bit but I was just I was open with them real forms. So you know, I’m feeling a little I’m have a chip on my shoulder, you know, about guys who have a family business who were raised and you know, have money and all that. So easy. And we opened up and they told me is like, they show me real experience. It’s not easy. He’s just different. And sometimes they say Mo Money Mo Problems. That’s true. All these preconceived ideas that these younger guys that got a business to ask

John Corcoran  24:42  

for greater opportunity, because they had a head start. Yeah, interesting.

Jean-Paul Gedeon  24:46  

Yeah. But I didn’t realize that the pressure that’s put on these people to, you know, lead or get to the same level that their parents did. It was just eye opening as Oh my goodness, I had a chip on my shoulder and I was wrong. So now I look at things from a different lens. Because if you look with your eyes, you only see what you see. But if you open up your mind, then you see what I mean. I opened up my mind aside from their lens. And, you know, they gave me props for, you know, doing a business on my own. I said, you know, I wanted to do something on my own. I don’t know, everybody talks, you know, they don’t necessarily want to be in a family business, but it’s a family. Hire someone. So yeah. And then it was the network with people from all over the world. So the business, the personal, and I learned about family, those three things, those pillars, to leave out of your environment and to be immersed with other entrepreneurs around the world. We’re doing the same thing you’re doing. You can’t replace that. Once in a lifetime experiences you can’t replace it.

John Corcoran  25:50  

That’s great. Jean-Paul, thank you for sharing your your experience with it. Where can people go to learn more about you connect with you and learn the different things that you’re up to.

Jean-Paul Gedeon  25:57  

Well, if you want to go check out our business, it’s really easy. It’s jpghawaii.com. jpghawaii h a w a i i .com That leads you to everywhere our YouTube or Instagram or LinkedIn, my personal my personal favorites are links to our media company, links to our printing and our new division of PPE distribution. So everything there is jpghawaii.com.

John Corcoran  26:25

Alright, Jean-Paul, thanks so much.

Outro  26:27  

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