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Hidden Gems: Local Businesses & Creatives You Should Know

Every day we have a choice. We can support an up and coming podcaster, try a new family-run restaurant, join a boutique gym started by a local fitness champ or we could keep giving away our money to the handful of giants who already control so much of our commerce. Our daily decisions impact the kind world we live in; if we want a world where small businesses are growing and artists and creatives are thriving then we should support them with our time, money and attention. We’re proud to highlight inspiring creatives and entrepreneurs each week in Hidden Gems series.  Check out some of our latest local gem features below.

Erin Greenlee

My Texas teaching journey started in 2009. I taught fourth grade in Leander ISD for many years and then second grade in Leander ISD for one year. I noticed that I was spending more and more time working with students on their social emotional needs and helping them solve problems with their peers. After much thought, I decided to go back to school and earn my Masters in School Counseling. At that time, I had two daughters ages 6 and 2. I was lucky enough to be able to complete an online Masters program and do all of my classes and assignments in the evenings, along with late into the night after the kids were in bed. I completed the program in 2 years and became an Elementary School Counselor in Leander ISD in 2016. Read more>>

Lauren White

In 2011, I was a new mom to a baby boy, and had a big corporate job – and life was good but increasingly busy with a newborn and a demanding career. I quickly realized that my life and priorities had shifted post-baby, and I returned to work but knew that something had changed. While I valued the equity that I built in my recruiting career, my passion had evolved. Read more>>

Michaela Munsterman

I was raised as a true Texan; a messy-haired, barefoot adventurer. This lifestyle instilled an active spirit in me. I spent my collegiate years playing NCAA volleyball while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Sports Science. After graduation, I continued my studies at Texas State University (Go Bobcats!) where I earned a Master’s degree of Science in Exercise Sport Science. I focused on the research of yoga and its mental health benefits. My research was published by the International Journal of Yoga (InJOY) and presented at a national yoga research conference. Those experiences are where my love of exercise and coaching people to use their own bodies as medicine started to bloom. Read more>>

Shelby Kirchner

In college, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my career. I had been studying sociology at Texas A&M with the intent to pursue a law degree after graduation, but I wasn’t really sold on the idea of being in school for another three years. I decided to explore different minors offered by the university and settled on horticulture. It was something fun and tangible that would push by creativity! Read more>>

Sue Bidstrup

We moved to Austin 8 years ago after a lifetime in Chicago. We took a huge leap of faith and we are so glad we did! My husband and I moved with our three kids and at the time, they were 16, 14 and 11. It was not easy but we knew it was the right thing. Moving is a transformative experience. It’s life changing from the moment you decide to do it. It requires an optimism to say ‘YES” to a new thing and it teaches you to trust God. Read more>>

Christopher Thatcher

Back in 2015, my wife and I decided to start a boat rental company because we loved going to the lake. I grew up in Page AZ which is a small lake town located right next to Lake Powell. Needless to say, I grew up at the lake! I loved the water so much, I decided to also join the US Coast Guard and was active duty for 8 years. As a family that always enjoyed the outdoors and water, we decided to follow our passion! We moved to Lago Vista TX in 2016 and began running Liquid Thrillz boat rentals. We started as a mobile delivery service and within the past 5 years, we worked really hard and finally had our marina built in Point Venture TX. Read more>>

Samantha Stokesberry

My journey started on the soccer field at age 3. Little did I know, that this journey would take me all the way to South Africa in 2014. I come from a family of athletes and teachers. From a young age, I learned the importance of teamwork, discipline, and sacrifice. I was taught to love others no matter where they came from or what they looked like. My parents raised me to kill others with kindness and to fight for justice. When it was time for me to go to college, I struggled with which path to take – becoming a teacher like my mom, or pursuing a soccer career like my dad. After years of indecision and switching my major three times, I finally settled on studying Sports and Fitness; Human Performance. Read more>>

Dequint Hill

Using the trials and Tribulations I endured as a kid to fuel my creative process , knowledge on life, as well as a survival tool to cope snd deal with my poverty stricken life lol I used those memories as a Young Nigga to embody this alter ego or alias to be the Voice of peers and other struggling kids in society trying to figure it out while attempting to find a purpose Hanging around older people that didn’t really know my name but I was always in the mix so I was allowed to to kicc it I was always “ayye “Dat boy “can rap, or “ Lil Youngin spit something “ I kinda naturally adopted the nickname ( not like I had one anyway) Read more>>

Peyton Walker

I always thought hair styling would be a rewarding profession, but I grew up in a small town where cosmetology was viewed as the next step after dropping out of college, and my parents were adamant that I get a college degree. I originally pursued a degree in Nursing, but after a series of unfortunate events, I was forced to reexamine my life plan. Without any sense of direction, I leveraged my coursework into a Bachelor’s degree in General Studies and began trying to figure out what I was going to do moving forward. I had done the Disney College Program in 2013 and had an incredible time there, so I started looking for any entry level jobs in Orlando I could take that didn’t require a specialized degree. Read more>>

Brandon Moscheo

Well I started playing music when I was 13. At the same time I was doodling guitar and drums. Eventually drums became #1 and that took off while guitar fell behind. I played in 1 thrash band as the drummer for about 5 years. While that was wrapping up say 2017-18, I attempted guitar again and found that I could actually strum power chords together. Fast forward now getting into the grunge scene and punk movement, I realized it wasn’t all as complicated as I may have thought. Being a intermediate drummer by this point, I began to write my own songs with the little guitar work I knew. Read more>>

Zachariah Rodriquez

The film industry is what brought me to Austin. I have loved filmmaking since I was a little boy growing up in Houston, watching the behind-the-scenes documentary on the making of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings movies. I studied film at the University of Houston and was on track to graduate, when around 2019 I got an opportunity to work on a Robert Rodriguez movie being filmed at Troublemaker Studios. I dropped out of school (with only three semesters left), packed up everything I had and moved from my hometown out here to start my career. Read more>>

Darius Nelms

At the age of 20, Darius Nelms foresaw the potential in becoming a barber. His savvy, heightened awareness and good judgment helped him to identify this as a viable business opportunity. Six years later, Darius focuses on how to transform his passion into a high growth business model by branding a logo, products and marketing. His fearlessness fueled him to connect with people and infect them with his passion, energy, and vision for the future. Darius’ networking and barbering skills have helped him gain great clients who are in weekly and bi-weekly rotation for a great haircut experience. Read more>>

Vintage Jay

I started writing poetry when I was in high school. Slowly that transitioned into rapping after one of my homies told me I should try to rap. He gave me that push to try something new, Bc he seen people was really into my pen and emotion I was giving in those poems I would post on Tumblr and Facebook. One of my producer homies “KLUTCH” had a small home studio in the Northside and 2016 we started to lock in and try to make music everyday. Read more>>

Preston Zeller

I’ve been an artist my whole life and used my artistry to communicate emotions/thoughts through these mediums, whether that be music, photography, film, or fine arts. So in 2019 when my older brother unexpectedly died from a drug overdose, I knew in the back of my mind that communicating my pain through art would be one of the only ways to see through the mixed emotions of grief. But it wasn’t so simple. Read more>>

rebecca hamm

My story began when I ended up homeless at 17 and found myself sleeping in the backseat of a friend’s Chevy Camaro on Fairfax Blvd in Los Angles, California. Little did I know, this would change my life forever and set in motion a spiritual journey that would continue to unfold to this day. As a young teenager trying to survive on the streets all alone and without any help, facing odds that would find most young people at that age ill-equipped to endure and overcome, Read more>>

Zackery Golden

I moved to Austin from Chicago in 2015. When I went looking for a hiphop scene I was pressed to find any clues of its existence. I finally found an underground community of local cats doing their thing but found it all depressingly underrepresented. No blogs or major online presence. So I started an ig page originally called @ATXRAPSCENE solely to help push promo for these artists. Read more>>

DeyAna Martinez

I’ve always used baking as a form of therapy and as a way to make my family smile ever since I was a young girl. But, as I grew older and life happened it became something I didn’t have time for anymore. Then as newlyweds in 2011 my husband & I hit hard times. He’d recently lost his job and I found myself miserable in a toxic work environment, however I was too afraid to leave. I had an emotional breakdown on my way to work one day and opened up to him about feeling an overwhelming desperation & depression looming over me. I discovered that he too had been battling his own depression. Read more>>

Dani Chinomso Madubuike

I was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, and moved to the US (New York to be exact) for college at the age of 15. There I was significantly younger than my peers, with a thick accent, and confused by a lot of American culture – needless to say, it was not a smooth transition. So, I turned to something that helped me escape – creativity through makeup. I’d spend hours perfecting how to cover up my newly found acne, and it wasn’t long before others noticed, and (strangely) wanted me to do theirs as well? Just like that, I become the self-taught MUA to book for fashion shows, birthdays, choir recitals, who only charged $15/face. Read more>>

Caroline Rosson

I went to Texas A&M University to study Finance and got a corporate job that brought me to Austin. I started Frankie Junior Co. 3 years ago to satisfy my more creative side, which I don’t get to show much at work. Over those 3 years I’ve grown my following to over 2,000 animal-lovers and established partnerships with other small businesses in the area. Creating dog bandanas has provided me with a way to connect with other Austin locals, grow my own personal brand, and of course see so many adorable dogs in my products. Read more>>

Becky Wooster

At Bud & Bloom Physical Therapy you will discover the root cause of your symptoms, and uncover the blockages to achieving your goals. Dr. Becky will take the time to listen to your concerns with compassion. You will be cared for with sensitivity regarding the nature of the perinatal time and complexity of issues involving the pelvis. With a holistic approach to achieving optimum health including whole body movement, mindfulness & stress reduction, nutrition, and cleansing of toxins, we will form an action plan to achieve your health goals. You will be empowered to achieve your goals with thorough education about what is particularly going on with your body. Read more>>

Christine Anderson

At 17 I was an “unruly teen” I got straight A’s, was in sports, and had all the right friends but I got swept up in the curiosity of drugs and alcohol. My mom intervened and introduced me to yoga. At that moment it didn’t fully stick but it did spark something that later turned into a full integration in my life and work but before I get to present day there are some important elements that happened in those between years. By my senior year of high school, my parents made the hard decision to take me out of school and send me away to a drug and alcohol rehab. Read more>>

Joon the Introvert

I moved to Austin from Killeen in December of 2012 looking for a bigger opportunity in music. Since then, I’ve created relationships with artists and continue to create great music with like minded creatives. Read more>>

Ozzy Barajas

My name is Ozzy, I’m El Paso born and raised. I started working in the restaurant industry as a server at a place called Village Inn when I was 16. After a year and a half I got offered a job at Applebees, and I worked my way up to bartending there. Next, Julio’s Cantina offered me a bar manager position, and they let me open one of their new locations. After a year at Julio’s, I worked as a bartender at a place called The Mix, which was more fine dining/speed bar. I lasted there a couple years, it closed down, and that’s when I decided I wanted to make a move to Austin. For the next year I survived and saved up money working at bars, playing Texas hold ‘em, and playing semi-professional beer pong. Finally, I’d saved up enough and I moved to Austin, thinking it would be easy to find a bartending job since I had so much experience. This was 2012. It was not easy. Read more>>

Ryan Kober

Entertaining and eating have always been the two biggest pillars of my life. Since I can remember, I’ve always been the guy who made everyone laugh or tried to finish someone else’s plate when they were too full. When I was thinking about going to college, acting and film making were my main focus. Cooking food or doing anything involving food hadn’t even crossed my mind yet. So I spent 4+ years dedicating my time to studying acting and film making at DeSales University in Center Valley, Pennsylvania and also at the Eugene O’Neill National Theater Institute in Waterford, Connecticut. Read more>>

Samuel Parrott

Becoming a choir director, musician, and lifelong student was not my original pathway. I spent the majority of my life planning for a career as a pastry chef with many dreams of cooking and baking all over the world. As the end of high school approached, I needed to find something different and my choir and band director urged me to pursue a career in music, even though I had no idea that one had to attend a music school to be a director. I was thrown immediately into the world of music at Texas State University and fell in love with teaching. I was first hired as an Elementary Music Specialist at Brooke Elementary in Austin (which sadly no longer exists) and spent three years building that program while attending Texas State full time for my Masters in Choral Conducting. Read more>>

Ay Chihuahua Rescue

Ay Chihuahua Rescue has been an Austin institution for over 13 years! It was originally started by a different team, but around 3 years ago, the board changed and Ay Chihuahua Rescue was reborn! The transition started after Caysha, the current president, lost her beloved Boston Terrier, Sadie, after over a decade of love and companionship. After her family decided it was time to welcome a new dog, her husband tried to make the play to get a Chihuahua, since their friend Hillary has several and they were so full of personality. Caysha shot this down right off the bat! Since Hillary’s tiniest was a bully and always preferred her husband over her… the audacity! Read more>>

Joshua Quinn

Animals have been part of my life since I can remember. In my teenage years I developed a strong sense of compassion for animal life. With this compassion, I learned patience. First for animals and then with myself. Practicing patience was the beginning of my mindfulness journey. As a young adult I saw an opportunity to be a dog trainer through a craigslist ad and jumped at the opportunity. After working for a major pet retail chain and then jumping around in the animal service industry for several years- I began independently training. Read more>>

Keri Elliott

I have always been an obsessive compulsive organizer. As kid I would hang out with my friends and clean their room while they played video games. I guess that was a little nerdy but as we all know, “Nerds rule he world!”. It wasn’t just a childhood thing though. Throughout my entire life I’ve found so much joy and fulfillment in helping people declutter and organize. For most people it’s not easy to stay organized and in the busyness of life they get overwhelmed. When I get the call to organize someone I know it’s really a call to bring peace to their chaos. In reality I’m not just an organizer, I’m a peacemaker, and what could be better in this crazy world than bringing people peace! Read more>>

Dj LiL j

I would have to say music started for me when I was a baby, Prince “Kiss” would play and my mom said I would bounce around like crazy in my carseat. I grew up watching the MTV awards because my sister Belinda was obsessed with MTV and the newest music! My Dad was all about music as well! As a child, I would hang around him and my uncles while they jammed out to all kinds of genres. Music was a big deal in our house growing up! I really had no choice but to be involved somehow, I started burning cd’s in high school and handing them to friends with all the exclusives. Read more>>

Lynn Raridon

Where to begin? My life has and continues to be an incredible journey! I have pursued and realized many of my dreams and some I didn’t even know I had. As a youth my first dream job was to be a teacher, but then in my teens, I discovered my true passion was dance. The high school I attended in Houston- The Contemporary Learning Center- didn’t offer any kind of extra curricular arts programs beyond visual arts, but did allow for student created groups and endeavors, so I created an outlet via a “dance/drama” club . I had no formal training beyond dancing in clubs so began taking modern dance classes in the community, which gave me the chutzpah I needed to direct-produce and perform in 2 shows at school. Read more>>

Diego Henriquez

Hi my name is Diego and I have been photographing things since I was 10 years old. It wasn’t a fancy camera but with my purple, point and shoot camera I thought I was going to start a Punk Rock magazine. Fast-forward to the future and many, many other jobs besides photography, I caught a break as a content creator for a Travel Company based out of Thailand. I moved there for a year and as things didn’t work out I returned to San Antonio, TX. Wanting to continue on the train of photography I applied for a photography position as a Real Estate Photographer – I had no portfolio to show in real estate. Read more>>

Courtney Keville

Born and raised in Austin I’ve grown up surrounded by the creative community. My mom taught me how to bead embroider when I was just six years old. My Aunt owned a bead store in Santa Rosa California and taught me how to bead, and work a cash register. In 2006 my family opened Sea Of Beads and I’ve worked there ever since. I love that I get to be around beads all day, work with my incredible father, and meet so many great artists that shop with us. I sold jewelry to friends and family, but got tired of the same old designs and I felt my creativity started to lack, so I went back to my embroidery roots.  Read more>>

Jessica Hatchett

Hatchett Project is an educational blog addressing project management topics and other appropriate concepts such as negotiations and goal setting. After successfully earning Project Management Institute’s Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® certification, I formed an interest in starting a new blog. It was initially a personal blog about me, but I realized there was more need for an online publication with a professional aim towards project management. At Hatchett Project, we are “totally obsessed with project management,” our goal is to educate readers on pertinent aspects of project management. Read more>>

Yola Lu

I got my start in comedy by doing stand up in 2011. I didn’t grow up watching stand up, so when I saw people do stand up on TV, I was obsessed and told myself that I wanted to try doing stand up someday. 2011 was the year that I was going to graduate college, and I felt like I didn’t get to do all the things in college that I wanted to do, so I decided to make a bucket list of all the things I wanted to do before graduating. Things on the list included being in a musical, performing in the Vagina Monologues, going to Greece, trying stand up and getting my nose pierced. I ended up doing all of those things, minus Greece and the nose piercing. Read more>>

Courtnie Austin

I used to be an alcoholic and an addict. I got sober 4/13/17. I wanted to do more. I was working in the healthcare administration profession up until October 2019. I knew I wanted to open my own business. I wore press on nails from the drugstores, and I got bored with their designs, so one day I decided that I could do them myself. It started off with me making them for myself. I started getting a lot of compliments on my nails and people were fascinated when they found I made them myself. They started asking me to make them for them as well, and “imPRESSIONSbyX press on shop was born! I now have ventured into doing full set acrylic nails as well, and am currently working on my nail tech license. Read more>>

Denisse Lopez

If you were to ask me 7 years ago if I ever imagined doing cooking as a career, I would of said no. It wasn’t until I found myself one year into my business admin. degree, not happy. I didn’t feel like it was what I meant to do. It wasn’t until my father suggested my hobby as a career that I started to dive into Culinary Arts. I was intrigued by all of it, the coats, the knife skills, the art, the aromas, the creative thinking. As you can imagine, I applied to culinary school, got accepted, and 6 years later, have started my own meal prep business. I’ve worked in resorts, banquets, fine dining but I always knew I wanted to work for myself. Read more>>

Sheree Taylor-Jones

I like to say I’m a late bloomer. It took me awhile to figure out what is my life’s purpose. In the beginning, I did what was expected of me. My career started in the banking industry and I became a corporate trainer. But my life wasn’t being in integrity with my soul’s desires. I then went on a huge exploration following my passion, which included being an entrepreneur. My love of animals led me to become a certified dog groomer, and then an ASPCA shelter director. After 5 years and becoming disillusioned by humanity’s disposable thinking regarding animals, I went into the wilderness again. After much searching I went back to corporate training but as a consultant doing soft skills training for companies. I really enjoyed the freedom and wonderful awakenings of students as they learned emotional intelligence skills. Read more>>

Wayne Munger

How I got to where I am today is hard to say for sure. I can’t claim to have planned where I am or what I would be doing from any earlier age. Growing up I was fortunate to have a family that loved to travel and experience new and unique things. Somewhere along the way, whether from a book or conversation with someone I met, I ran into a philosophy of life that I have kept forefront in my head. Paraphrased as concisely as I can put it is “Live the life that opens the most doors”. I am the owner of Blue Hound Books in Jonestown Texas along with my wife Sarah and son Hudson. Prior to starting our bookstore I had made a life through coaching soccer and teaching. Read more>>

Suji Shin

Looking back at tHE One Clinic: I realized that it was the culmination of the journey I took to find my cultural identity. Growing up in Korea, I was surrounded by strong cultural and traditional ties that stem back generation. However, when I moved to America in middle school, I quickly became distant with my background and heritage. By the time I joined a pre-med program in college, I found completely disidentify with my Korean roots. Western ideologies and methodologies seemed much more efficient and believable. However, as I continued to study through the extensive pre-medical track, my heartfelt something was missing. Read more>>

Denise and Matthew Thornton

Back in 2002, Matthew began his acting career. We got married, packed up our house full of hand-me-downs and our spoiled pup, Griffyn, and moved from our hometown of Corpus Christi to sunny Los Angeles. Like most aspiring actors, Matthew took on multiple jobs to accommodate the random audition schedule, while I was beginning my career as a math teacher. We lived in Los Angeles until 2007, and Matthew added an array of experiences to his acting resume including music video and soap opera guest actor, commercial actor, and two stints playing a doctor on the TLC Channel. He lucked out when the casting director from Untold Stories of the ER ran across his head shot and realized that he was a perfect match for the doctor that was being featured on an upcoming episode. Read more>>

Shane Anciso

Since 2007 most people reach out for help when their Mac or Pc starts to run slow. With over 1500 hrs of documented repairs I have the experience, tools and connections to get the job done right. Thus people come to me instead of a repair shop, because I work onsite and /or remotely around their schedule & set up a repair to their satisfaction. Thru hardware and software diagnostics the aim is to either extend the life of what they have, or get them setup towards a replacement with minimal down time. 90 day guarantee on my work. 🙂 Shane Read more>>

Ellie Adams

How did my astrology journey begin? My mother. She was always very interested in astrology when I was young and got me into Sun Signs and Moon Signs when I was, maybe, 8 years old or so. This interest in more basic level astrological knowledge quickly became a passion, and I was hungry at that point to learn anything and everything I could about how to read a natal chart and go deeper with the discipline. Ever since then (I’m 34 now, for reference) I’ve been expanding my knowledge in different areas of astrological study – completely self taught. Astrology runs through my soul like blood runs through my veins. Read more>>

Phoenix Knight

What really got me from wanting to just play guitar to be one of the greats was seeing the crowd at a Black Sabbath show. Can’t deny War Pigs is one of the hardest tunes out there. I just loved how it made me feel to see them and the crowd singing back the lyrics. Around six months of picking up the guitar I already tried to form a band and start playing live. I have to thank my parents for this one for helping me create somewhat of a business mind. The part that sees things as possible ways to sustain myself and attach that to something I love/like. Read more>>

Alex

Our pets are our family. Pets extend our lives with all the joy they bring us and they deserve not only our love, but also the best nutrition we can give them. At Pet Wants, we are dedicated to providing high-quality pet food that is fresh and nutritious. I’m Alex Kombogiannis and I own this local business with my wife, Shawn. At Pet Wants, our specially-crafted pet food formulas are made in small batches with fresh, natural ingredients enhanced with vitamins and minerals for a complete and balanced diet in every bowl. We offer multiple blends of dog and cat food formulas as well as healing salve, calming balm, anti-itch spray, paw wax and more. Read more>>

Leigh Acord

I graduated from UT in 1999, and since I never imagined I could be an artist professionally, I got a degree in advertising, with a minor in business. While working in advertising, I started creating murals for family and friends as a hobby — my first mural was for my sister’s nursery! Advertising was not fulfilling creative work, so I moved away from that and decided my goal was to create my own shop representing and showcasing local artists. I always had admiration for artists and had an affinity for the arts, but I still didn’t consider myself an artist. So I wanted to represent other artists and help them find clients and an audience. Read more>>

Kelli Horan

As an artist, I started at a young age super informally. I never took an art class – I loved experimenting with different mediums. I settled on pyrography after my first piece – I created it as a gift for my dad’s birthday (it was a burning of Charlie Prince form 3;10 to Yuma). Since then, I branched out with subject matter and finally showing my work at shows. My interest in visual media and writing fueled my start in filmmaking. It was the perfect marriage of the two. My husband is a filmmaker too, and he included me in many of his projects early on – giving me great exposure to the medium. Read more>>

Stevie and Sazan Hendrix

We’re Sazan and Stevie- digital content creators on the internet who welcome you into our virtual Home—a space for us to pour our hearts into and connect with you on another level. We’re so glad you’re here! Before “influencers” and the millions of followers and hundreds of thousands of views, traveling around the world to work with globally recognized brands and fulfilling our television dreams, we met in college studying Radio, TV and Film. After moving to LA, we faced the harsh realities of trying to break into the entertainment industry, struggled to pay our bills and tested our convictions in our dreams.  Read more>>

Zach Bitter

I got interested in running in middle school, but didn’t take it too seriously until end of high school early college years. In college, I began getting interested in why we would be doing certain workouts, and began to recognize that of all the workouts, the long run was my favorite. After college, when I no longer had a team centered approach to my running, I began exploring longer distance races, which ultimately led me to ultramarathon. After getting through my first season of ultramarathon racing in 2011 and my first full year of ultramarathon training and racing in 2012,  Read more>>

Sonya Schement

I have wanted to be a track coach since I was in high school. I remember watching a friend of mine high jump at my last high school track meet ever and out of nowhere I said out loud, “I want to be on the track for the rest of my life.” That summer I went to coach for a local track club in Plano called the PSA Plano Cheetahs. Where I met my first mentor. Coach Bev. She was awesome. She was so passionate about the kids and the sport. We took kids to track meets all over the country! That summer I knew that I wanted to build something like this one day. Read more>>

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