Exit Rich | Les Cookson | Leveraging Shark Tank


Les Cookson, the owner of LUCIDArt, isn’t afraid of a challenge; he thrives on them. This two-time Shark Tank alum went from inventor with a dream to entrepreneur extraordinaire, building a business primed for a massive exit. But Les’ secret isn’t just about landing a deal but understanding the game of building and exiting businesses like a kingmaker. Dive into his experience and discover how he leveraged the show’s platform, the key turning points that transformed his creation into a thriving company ripe for a lucrative exit, and the strategies that made his business attractive to potential buyers. Les Cookson’s insights will equip you with the knowledge and strategies to exit rich. So, are you ready to take your business to the next level and unlock your exit potential? Learn from Les Cookson’s journey today!

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From Barf To Art With Les Cookson

As always, we have another special guest with tremendous content. This guest is super special because he’s been on Shark Tank not once, but twice. I’m very excited to introduce Les Cookson to the show. Welcome to the show, Les.

Thank you for having me on.

A little bit about Les, he was born and raised in Northern California. He’s from a family of 13 siblings. He’s number 10. Think about that. When you’re arguing with your brothers and sisters, he was raised with 12 siblings. He has been married for over 20 years and he has 6 children of his own. He was somewhat born an entrepreneur because he was inspired by his father, who is an entrepreneur and an inventor. His father had his own company.

Out of the 13 kids, there are 2 entrepreneurs. Les and his brother. Welcome to the show, Les. I am excited to hear about your journey of entrepreneurship and invention. Les started as an inventor and then became an entrepreneur. I can’t help to ask, what were you like as a little boy with 13 siblings, and how did that inspire you to invent and do what you’re doing now?

It is free-range. We had a wood yard. It’s an entrepreneurial playground. You go help customers load up wood for tips or gather sticks to sell them. I was always drawing invention designs in my sketchbook or making artistic things. Art, inventing, entrepreneurship, that’s how I was raised.

What age did you start?

I know I was about 8 years old when I started working in the wood yard, coming out and stacking wood and helping customers and that sort of thing. That’s about the same age when I like to invent. I like a sketchbook. I designed a solar cooker that uses magnifying glasses to magnify the sun’s light and a petrol motion go-kart with falling rocks. I always have ideas and things I want to invent. I always say that I wanted to be an inventor. That and painting and work to make money. That was how I was raised.

You then decide, “I’m going on a Shark Tank.” He hasn’t been on there once. He’s been on there twice. Tell us what inspired you to go on Shark Tank.

The first time, I was working on inventions. I couldn’t get any of them to take off, so I kept inventing new ones where I was trying to transition from being an inventor who kept creating to an entrepreneur who knew how to sell things.

An Inventor Turned Into An Entrepreneur

An inventor and an entrepreneur. An inventor creates. Bill says that they can go on to the next invention, but if you don’t have the entrepreneur who goes out there to find the audience and sell it and make money, your inventions are going to stay in the closet. That’s what Steve Jobs and Wozniak are. Wozniak was the inventor and Jobs was the salesperson. He was more of an entrepreneur. You have to have both to be successful. Most inventors are inventors and they don’t have the entrepreneurial side. That’s why they come to me and say, “I got twelve different products. What can you do with them?”

Exit Rich | Les Cookson | Leveraging Shark Tank

Leveraging Shark Tank: Most inventors are just inventors. They won’t be successful if they don’t have the entrepreneurial side.


That’s true. I was born an inventor and had to learn how to be an entrepreneur. Part of that process was that my two oldest kids would throw up all the time. My in-laws had a sandwich shop that was up a windy road. They’d go there and get full of chocolate milk and cookies, come on the way back, and throw up all over the car. They couldn’t grab a bag in time. They can’t hold it.

I invented a bib that they wore. Even if they were sleeping and throwing up sometimes, it would catch it and it would help. I was doing market research to see if anyone liked it. I had started watching season one of Shark Tank. I was like, “This is cool.” I went in and sent some of the information. I already had pictures and stuff ready because I was talking to people to see if they liked this idea. I sent it off to Shark Tank and forgot about it. They called me a few months later because I had a barfing dummy and made for good TV.

They want something that will make for good TV because nobody wants to watch if you don’t create somewhat of a train wreck. Everybody wants to watch a train wreck. That was for good TV. Now, that wasn’t his first invention. We’re going to find out what his first invention was. Before we do, let’s review a quick episode here.

“First in the Tank is a new take on an old tool for artists.

Hello, sharks. I am here pitching a business with millions and sales. Better yet, my business is built around my invention but the most amazing thing of all, I’m sorry. Hold on.

Are you okay?

It’s going to be, this is embarrassing.

Thank you.

Remember a guy who passed out here once?

The most amazing thing is this isn’t even the first time I’ve been on Shark Tank! That’s right sharks, it’s Les Cookson, the carsick bib guy from season two. Back again, here’s a little reminder. The carsick bib is a smart, hands-free, art bag for kids. It’s a bib.

It’s a bib.

it’s a carsick bib.

It’s a feeding bag too.

Then what happens? I’m not pitching a vomit necklace. I took that invention behind the barn and shot it. You’re welcome Mr. Wonderful.”

I love this. You only get three seconds to make a good first impression. I think you did it pretty well. You have to come out with something unique or something that sets you apart. That was a brilliant intro. What do you have to add to that, Les?

It’s not what made the pitch interesting. It’s what got me on the show. They were at the end of casting. There were a couple of more spots. I was one of the last people they were talking to. I came with a little watered-down version of that gag, ready to go for producers. They weren’t even expecting anything. Both of them agreed, “This guy’s on the show.” It’s an important thing to have on Shark Tank. That’s my showmanship. I was able to get on and make an interesting pitch.

Showmanship is so important because as I said, you only have three seconds to make a personal impression. When you are trying to appeal to millions of viewers, you want to get those viewers’ impressions, get their attention right away, and create stickability for the show Shark Tank. He was able to do that. A lot of times people say, “Think outside the box.” No, you have to throw the box away and come up with something unique.

I swear Les, I watched Shark Tank. We get help from viewers. We helped Shark Tank guests get ready to go on Shark Tank. This was one of the best intros I’ve ever seen. Well done. I like the vomit dummy. Good job. The first time, you went in with a tie. The second time, you were more casual. What was the reason for that?

The first time I was trying to act like I was somebody. The second time I was somebody so I could dress however.

He was trying to act like he was somebody. The second time, he was somebody because he had made millions as you’re about to see in his very first invention. Let’s take a look. I always say fake it till you make it or act like you belong.

“I took what I learned from watching Shark Tank to grow one of my other inventions in massive sales. Sharks, I am here asking $300,000 for 10% of my business Lucid Arts. At Lucid Art, we sell the Lucy Drawing Tool that can make anyone an artist and any artist a master. Whatever you want to draw in front of the Lucy, look down to the viewing window and draw over the reflected image to start your masterpiece in minutes.

The Lucy is my reinvention of a classic art tool that has been used by artists for centuries. That’s right, the old masters had help. Now that I’ve breathed a new life into this old device, all of today’s artists and will-be artists can have help too. Sharks, who wants to take a ride with an old friend and crush the modern art world with this reinvented historical drawing tool?”

You see what he did here. He didn’t go out and create something completely new. He took something that’s already been created and made it so much better. I always say everything has already been done. You have to find something new. You can’t always find something new. You got to find something that was good. You can go back decades and decades like you did Les. You went way back in history to find this tool and you reinvented it. You made it better. It’s okay to do that because it’s hard to come up with something that’s never been done before. Tell us a little bit about how you got to that point.

I was taking a painting class and my teacher brought one in that he had made. There’s a historical one and he had made a homemade one. With his design, some of the older ones, it had to be dark in the room and have a spotlight on some little gourds. He was explaining it. I wasn’t paying attention. I went and looked through it.

I didn’t understand what happened because there was this hologram of the gourds on the paper. As I stepped away and realized what had happened, it sent this chill of excitement because it was the mixture of art and invention in a device I could understand that I could improve. The teacher talked about how the image was too small.

It was too dim. You had to have a spotlight and use it in the dark. I immediately was trying to figure out ways to make the image larger, to make the image brighter, to make that brightness adjustable. People used to use it. Computers and cameras made it obsolete. People still want to draw. They still want to draw from life. They want to use historical tools. They don’t want to use electricity. This uses no electricity.

I made it something where you take the old technology, make it new again, and make it so a person can use it. It works well. You put anything in front of it, you can change it, you get a large image, and you can make the image brighter or dimmer. It probably could take off, take the old one off a shelf, and sell it again because it’s been long enough that people forgot about it. I wanted to make it better, make it more useful, and bring it back to life better than ever so that people today can use it. Not just for historical purposes but also because it’s practical.

That’s probably some good words of wisdom because you go back and look at things that were created that are not in life anymore, are not being utilized, and see what you can do to improve them. What I love about this product is it looks like anybody can do it because part of the episode that I cut out was you invited Mr. Wonderful to come up and draw and I’m like, “If he can draw it, anybody can.”

The cool thing about it is that anyone can draw and then you can draw with it but it also teaches you to draw. We have courses as well that if you want to draw, you can go try to learn again and again. This will be like training wheels for your journey so that you can draw immediately and learn long-term core drawing skills.

We’re going to talk about that. We’re going to talk about how lucid Lucy continues to evolve. Let’s play a little bit more here.

“The first time you do it, you work with it for 30 minutes. You’re going to be drawing things like you never imagined you could draw.

Do you have a patent?

I have a provisional patent on this.

You said it’s been around for a long time.

I’m sorry. On the improvements. The historical device had a lot of issues. It’s the reason people stopped using it. The image was small, it was unsteady. I spent four years tinkering in my garage, working and making it new again. It’s something that artists want to use.”

He spent four years in his garage. He came up with this invention before the barf bag because he had been working on this for four years. He got distracted. Go ahead and tell us your story real quick, Les.

I made it. It was awesome. Great. I didn’t know how to sell it. I thought I knew how to invent. I make the barf bib and that’s not the only thing. I did other things. Some of the things made money. I handmade them and sold them on eBay and stuff. It’s a testament of an inventor can invent something but the journey to become an entrepreneur, focus on where the money is coming from, focus on that one thing, and try to build sales is what made it so that I could be a successful inventor. You have to have the entrepreneurial part to it, either a partner who’s an entrepreneur or learning yourself to become one.

You can be a successful inventor if you have an entrepreneurial side. Share on X

As we spoke before, a lot of inventors are not entrepreneurs, are not business people. Either you have both sides like Les has, now he is an inventor and he’s become more entrepreneurial, more sales. If you don’t have that in your inventory, you need to hire and get a partner with an entrepreneur or vice versa. If you’re an entrepreneur and you can’t invent, partner with somebody like Les here.

Let’s talk about patents real quick because every time we watch any Shark Tank episode, what do they always ask? Do you have a patent on that? Do you have a patent pending? Do you have a utility patent? What do you have? He has a provisional patent. It’s important to add a patent because I talk about my six Ps in my book Exit Rich. Number 4P is Proprietary, those proprietary assets. Patents drive value. It can take you from a 3 multiple, 5 multiple, 7 multiple, to a 10 and beyond.

He got a provisional patent. There are different ways to get patents. First, I always say search to see if there’s anything close to you. You can go file a patent, but then once you file the patent, you can’t change anything. Les got what is called a provisional patent, which is the best strategic approach. Do you want to explain what that is real quick, Les?

You don’t have to spend all of the money on a non-provisional patent and you don’t have to be locked in. You can do a provisional patent, which is easier and less expensive. It gives you a year to do market research to see if people want to buy it, to see if there are some changes you want to make, then you can turn that into a non-provisional standard patent and you get the earlier date. It’s holding your place in line where you figure out if it’s worth putting the rest of the money in and if you want to make some changes before you lock it down.

Exit Rich | Les Cookson | Leveraging Shark Tank

Leveraging Shark Tank: Hold your place in line where you figure out if it’s worth putting all the rest of your money in and if you want to make changes before you lock it down.


Yes, because you might see things that you didn’t think about before, but when you’re out there doing market research and creating it, little things can pop up, especially in an inventor’s mind like us that you want to add. If you already filed that patent, you are locked. You can’t add that. A provisional patent is the best way. The other thing you need to think about when you file a patent is whether you want to do business in the US or globally. That makes a difference in how you file as well. Let’s review some more. It’s so much fun.

“Then I went from the invention in my garage to the entrepreneur trying to sell this thing. I hit the roadblock in 2010. I got sidetracked with a few things, including a bid that you barf in that ended up on Shark Tank.

Les, what do you sell it for? What’s the cost you to make? What are your sales in the last 12 months?

The Lucy Flex, that’s going to cost him about $128. It costs us $25.50 to make it. In the past 12 months, we did $2.3 million.



I told you millions right at the beginning.

Did you take that money? Why would I lie to an old friend?

That’s impressive.

Did you make any money on that?

Last year, we did $3.7 million total. We made $1.6 million in profits.



What have been your lifetime sales?

$10 million.


$10 million.”

That’s a very important note to stop on a couple of things here. One thing I want to point out is that Les got sidetracked because he didn’t know how to sell his invention, which created a barf bag. I always tell my entrepreneurs, “Ask yourself why is this happening to you, for you, and not to you?” A lot of entrepreneurs get burned out, “I can’t do it, I give up, I quit.” Ask yourselves, why is this happening for me and not to me?

It happened for Les so he could get on Shark Tank, finish his invention based upon what he learned from the first episode, and go back to generate lots of money. Think about this. Most of the guests that go under Shark Tank, the entrepreneurs, they’re not making any money. Remember, last wasn’t making any money in the beginning. It cost him a thousand, not a million, thank God.

A Strategic Partnership With Sharks

It cost him a thousand dollars and he generated $900. This time he had $3 million in sales and his lifetime sales were $10 million. People ask, “If you need $10 million why are you coming on Shark Tank?” There are lots of reasons that Les decided to come on Shark Tank. Shark Tank is not always for the money. It’s for the strategic partnership.

That was one of the questions they asked. I think maybe you’re going to get into that.

Yes, we’re going to get into it. Don’t ruin the surprise. Are you ready?

“YouTube is really good because people who are going on YouTube and they’re going to watch a drawing tutorial.

Right. They’re typing in, “How to learn to draw.”

How much are you spending on advertising, Les?

Last year was a big year. We did about $70,000 a month in advertising.


He spent $70,000 a month and everybody goes, Are you still spending that Les?

That was 2020. There was a lot because of the pandemic. People were bored at home and that thing. Percentage-wise, we still spend a lot on advertising because we make money when we spend money on advertising.

It is because you make money. If you don’t spend money, you don’t make money.

If you’re advertising at a loss, then we’re spending money and then making money. Why wouldn’t you spend more if you made more?

We're spending money on advertisements to make money. So, why wouldn't you spend more if you can make more? Share on X

I always tell everybody that marketing should be your number one biggest expense line, it should be marketing. What Les said is profound and most people are not going to pick it up. YouTube is this number one platform. Now, the problem with a lot of entrepreneurs, they throw a bunch of money up against the wall to see what sticks. They try to be everything to all platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, TikTok, etc. You have to figure out what works best for you because not every channel is going to produce an ROI, Return On Investment. Not every channel will produce those results. Why was YouTube so beneficial for you?

I think it’s maybe the longer form. People are on there more seriously trying to learn how to draw. There’s a lot of learn-to-draw stuff on there. You get the people who are searching for the right answer. Facebook and Instagram work as well. Which one is working best can vary month to month and go back and forth as well.

That’s an important thing too. You don’t have to have all your eggs in one basket as far as that goes. We don’t do anything on TikTok. It’s not the right demographic. It doesn’t work. It may not be the right people. We don’t advertise everywhere. We’ll test anything but if it’s not getting a return, we’re not going to keep doing it.

If you have a different angle or different ad copy, we might try it again but you want to be very stingy. Not stingy, but very careful with that you’re getting results. If you’re getting results, keep spending because if you’re spending more and making more, why would you stop spending more? Until you get to a point that comes. If you find it, you can’t get equilibrium at some point, then you hope you can scale it higher but then the cost per sale goes up and then you pare it down. You’re always trying to push that envelope.

You made a good point. If you’re spending money and you’re making money, keep spending the money. Fortune 500 companies do a terrible job at this. Fortune 100 companies too, where they have great sales teams and they start cutting them and cutting their compensation so they can make more money. I agree, you don’t want to put all your eggs into a YouTube basket.

You want to pick those 3, 4, or 5 different marketing techniques and strategies to work for you. It might not be all the platforms. It could be an email campaign. It could be trade shows. It could be, like you said, YouTube. Find those platforms, but the ones that don’t work for you, like he said, TikTok, dump it. Move on. Don’t spend any money there. Know who your audience is. I think you have a very good idea of who your audience is. Know you’re targeted audience. You can’t be everything to everybody.

“Why do you need the money? You made $1.6 million.

I’m here for a shark. That’s our biggest pain point right now that I think a shark can help us with is the cost of acquisition.

It’s a challenge because the customer acquisition, you have to find a subset of people that would use a tool that want to draw, right? What are your customer acquisition costs now, and what are they?

 It’s about $48 on average for the year.

Your margin when you sell one unit is what?

It costs $25. We’re selling for like $130.

You’re basically over $100 worth of profit. You’re giving up half your profit to acquire the customer. Now I understand your problem. You want to get that every dollar you can reduce your customer acquisition is straight to your pocket. This is really about driving sales through customer acquisition. That’s it.”

What did we talk about a minute ago? He didn’t necessarily go on there for the money. He went on there to get a strategic partner to help him with some of the things he thought he needed help with. Customer acquisition costs were one of them. I know you have more things that you need help with. Tell us a little bit about that journey.

It was a difficult thing because the numbers from that year were coming from 2021. In 2021, we had a few other things that happened particularly to us but happened to everybody doing online advertising, which is iOS 14. Most people need to update their phones. You don’t pay attention to the update on your phone. That was a big one because it made it very difficult to target people and to find people who had particular interests, to be able to give them targeted advertising.

Our cost per acquisition skyrocketed and we had to find new ways of advertising. There was $48 per sell for the year up to that point. We’ve been able to get that down where our cost per acquisition now is bouncing between mid-20s to mid-30s. That’s usually that’s where it’s averaging out within any day it might spike or drop.

It’s like that’s what’s averaging out. We’re looking at like a month at a time or something like that. A lot of that is that we have to find new ways of attribution because without figuring out who bought it and where did they find you. Triple Well is a third-party attribution website that’s been big enough to help us get extra eyes on where the money is going and how it’s being spent. You’re spending a lot of money.

What was that source?

Triple Well. They’re good because you have the attribution within the platform. Facebook says, “This many people bought it because of us.” Google says, “This many people bought it because of us.” They’re a third party. They use different attribution models and it makes it easier to see what’s going on and where the money is going to help you judge if you’re making money.

If you’re making money, you want to spend more. If you’re not, you want to pull back. If you’re doing that blindly, that’s a huge issue. We also had to up our email marketing game. We weren’t email marketing people because we figured that if you buy a Lucy, you never need another one because it lasts forever. At that time, it was not the case.

That’s good and bad.

At that time, we didn’t have more things to sell. Now we do have more things to sell.

We’re going to get into that.

Email marketing became a big part of that too of getting people in. Give us your email, we’ll give you a coupon. We’ll follow up with you if you don’t buy. If you like a business, if you appreciate them, drop your email on their website because you are deciding to give them your data. If you don’t do that, they have to pay Facebook and Google for your data. If you want to help us like a small business out and you’re like someone interested, drop your email in because you’re letting them contact you directly.

That’s a big thing. I think if consumers understood that more, putting your email in is you controlling your data and deciding who has it and how they use it. Otherwise, they have to go through a big tech company to contact you and then they have to pay a big chunk of their margins to do so. I don’t know if that’s a thing that people are ever going to be aware of.

What I love is that I’m glad you explained this to us because you don’t know what you don’t know. There are so many different things in business like the iPhone update. They completely changed everything. We were selling a business that specialized in tags, total tags, security tags, and all those different kinds of things.

When things are updated on Apple, their biggest platform, it completely almost causes them to go out of business. There are lots of things that you don’t prepare for because you’re not aware of them. Being able to pivot like Les did is important because it practically could put you out of business. We try to guess about all the things that could happen.

Yes, it could have. If we hadn’t pivoted, if charting hadn’t happened right at that time too to get that mentorship and get that burst, I don’t know. In an alternate reality, bad decisions and not adapting, you adapt or die in business.

You’re growing or dying. There’s no in-between. Always say you got to AIM, Always Innovate and Market. The influx of you being on Shark Tank helped save the company. Is that what you’re saying?

It’s not just the influx from the episode, but also the change in strategy from what we’ve learned in the mentorship from it. That’s where we helped get the cost per acquisition down. If the cost per acquisition comes down, on an ongoing basis, Shark Tank is enough to keep a business surviving, the publicity is not enough to keep a business sustained.

Exit Rich | Les Cookson | Leveraging Shark Tank

Leveraging Shark Tank: Shark Tank isn’t enough to keep a business surviving; it’s like the study is not enough to keep a business because it’s short-lived.


No, because it’s short-lived, right? You’ll get that influx for 2 to 3 months and then after you do a rerun, you might get another influx. I go to Shark Tank and listen to Shark Tank all the time, and I can’t tell you how many times I buy the products on the show. Now I’m going to go buy the Lucy.

Even when we get a rerun, it’s a burst of sales, but constantly on our how did you hear about us? Shark Tank is hovering around 5%. It’s free, always like the static 5% then the burst when it re-airs. It makes a difference for sure.

It’s a marketing channel. I always say you have to have 3 to 5 marketing buckets. It’s a good marketing bucket.

It is good marketing and we don’t pay anything for it. That’s the great thing about it.

The Extra Rich podcast is a good bucket too.

Exactly. It is. That’s another thing too because then people talk about you because you’re on Shark Tank and that makes a huge difference.

Let’s see what’s next here.

“Cost per acquisition and those sorts of things. One thing too is we don’t have recurring income. This would be a perfect product to marry with online courses to be able to teach people how to draw with it.

I’m in awe of your journey.

No kidding.

One day you’re the barf bag guy, selling $10 million or something, and guess what you are? A success. Everybody in this country gets a second chance.”

I love that. You’re the barf bag guy and now you are a success. Like in the beginning, the first time in season two, you said you wanted to belong. On the 13th season, you made it. You want to have 3 to 5 profit centers when you own a business. That’s what I always say, 3 to 5, 3 to 6, somewhere around there.

The reason why so many businesses go out of business, especially during COVID is that they have one way they get paid. You have one profit and I look at restaurants that took the biggest hit during COVID because they only get paid when you come in and dine or take food to go. You have to think about what else I can do. What’s strategic? What’s congruent?

I like the way you put that. It’s funny as you’re saying that. That’s what we’re doing. We have three revenues now streams out. We see it. We don’t have your expertise and that method, but I guess we’ve stumbled upon it as we’re trying to build this out and figure out how to make it work.

My expertise should get in and Exit Rich. You and I are going to be working together. There we go. You already got my book. I love it.

We’re so focused on building business and making it successful, that kind of stuff, but at the same time, we’re going to make sure. I haven’t thought about exiting but at some point, it’s like, I don’t know. I have other ideas I would love to put my time into that I’m passionate about as well. If I could get it on good footing and in good hands where I know it would continue the mission and be successful, that would be a cool thing. I got your books right now. Make sure we’re doing it the right way.

One thing I want to say to everybody, Les said he doesn’t know If he wants to exit, he doesn’t know. Here’s the bottom line. You start with the end in mind, as Stephen Covey always said, “Start with the end in mind.” If you start with the end in mind, guess what you’re going to do? You’re going to build that solid foundation. You don’t go in and build a house without making sure you have the plumbing, without making sure you have the electrical, without making sure that you have a solid foundation.

Start with the end in mind. Share on X

Same thing with a business. You want to build that solid foundation, what we call the six P’s because even if you say, “I’m not going to exit,” guess what you built yourself. You built yourself a sustainable business that you don’t have to work in all the time, and that you can scale when you’re ready to sell because 85 to 90 percent of businesses, according to Steve Forbes, will never sell. That’s a pretty strong statistic.

A lot of business owners never know what’s in store. We never knew if COVID was going to come in and shut the world down for two years. I have business owners and their wives who call me and say, “My husband dropped out of a heart attack at the age of 40, what do I do?” He didn’t have anything to sell because he didn’t have the 6Ps. He didn’t have people. He didn’t have processes. He had one way he got paid, etc.

You want to build that business in the mind of selling because, at some point, people should exit their business unless you’re going to pass it down to generation, but you still want to build a solid foundation because you don’t want to leave your family with something that’s not sellable and something that can’t continue to operate and continue your legacy.

Very well said.

Thank you. Let’s see what’s next. This is so exciting.

“It’s a very cool device. What I find most amazing is that you are making boatloads of money. You came in asking very fair asked of a shark. I think you’re doing phenomenally by yourself. I feel like it’s the right product for you, not for me but I wish you good luck.”

He asked $3 million for his business. What was your net income at the time?

The last counter year, we did $3.7 million and $1.6 million which was profit.

You were at $1.6 million profit when you went into the Shark Tank?

Yes. That year, we finished and I recognized that that was a bump from COVID. It was like all who were shut down were bored. If you look at the trend after that, we had a bad year in 2021. I was 14. We had a knockoff, but we built past that and built up and beyond that. Some people go in there and I feel like they have to have larger investments. They’re unrealistic. I don’t know what it is exactly but it’s like I have a real business. I want to try to do something reasonable. I want to make an evaluation that is based on reality.

Many people on this reality show lack that reality when someone comes in who’s basing it on something real. At that time, if someone asked me “If I would cut you a check for $3 million for your entire business,” I would say no. I wouldn’t even think about it. The price you would sell the whole thing for and the price you would give away a piece to a strategic partner are two different things.

I’m going to be away from the upside. I was bringing in someone else. I don’t know. Many of these valuations too I feel like they come in there and they laugh about it, then they offer them something way different. What’s even the point? It wasn’t even the beginning of a negotiation. It was a joke. I don’t know.

I think you said it better than I could have. You said they’re going to this reality show and they don’t know reality. I always tell my clients that the way I relate it to them is everybody thinks they’re baby. You have six kids. Every single one of them. Do you think they were the most beautiful baby on the planet?

Yes, they were though.

They were though. Do you remember the Jerry Steinfeld episode where they had a kid? Do you remember that episode? When their friends gave birth. They visited to see the baby and when they left they said, “My gosh, it’s an ugly baby.”

That was hilarious. Yes.

The bottom line is everybody thinks their baby is prettier than everybody else’s. Same thing with business. Everybody thinks their business is better than everybody else’s. Everybody thinks it’s worth more than what it is. Newsflash, that’s why so many people get laughed off the stage at Shark Tank. I’m glad you didn’t because you’ve been on once.

You knew how to be realistic, you knew what your baby was worth. You did undervalue it based upon if that EBITDA was 1.6, your business would have been worth double that, if not more. You want to be realistic when you go on Shark Tank. That’s why we have people come to us so we can do the evaluation and we can help you talk numbers. That’s what you did very well on this show. Love it.

Exit Rich | Les Cookson | Leveraging Shark Tank

Leveraging Shark Tank: Be realistic when you go on Shark Tank.


“No less. I can’t believe how advanced I’ve become. For me, it’s not something I want to go down the bike on because it’s too niche a market for me. I like to scale like BING. I got to tell you, I didn’t even believe you.”

Here’s why I can agree and disagree. A lot of investors like big things, a lot of things that they can scale. I, as an investor, because I am an investor, buy businesses, partner with business owners, grow the business, and turn around and exit for a much higher value. I like those niche things because you’re not like everybody else, especially if you could take that niche and spread it.

I don’t see your business so nichey because I think your business appeals to more than people who want to draw. There are so many entrepreneurs or so many CEOs, COOs, and people who have quit corporate America and are looking at like, “What do I do?” “What were my passions way back then?” Especially entrepreneurs because even as a little girl, I love to write.

I love to write lyrics. I love to write poems. I love the right short stories. I loved art even though I was bad at it but we stifle all that down because we get so busy that we forget what we once loved. We don’t do it anymore. The thought that somebody could draw, what president was it? Was it President Clinton? Is it President Bush or President Clinton?

George W. Bush paints in his retirement.

George W. Bush has other hobbies. We will not talk about it on this show. Bush went out and painted magnificent paintings. I don’t think it’s so niche. I think a lot of us are a little bit of an artist, especially entrepreneurs. I don’t look at it as that niche of a business.

LUCY Drawing Tool

Everybody wants to learn to play the piano. Everybody wants to learn to draw. That’s the problem with every other learning-to-draw method is that it’s like riding a bike without training wheels and you land flat on your face and say, “I can’t draw.” It gives you instant success and then long-term growth.

It is a niche because it’s art but the thing is I like being a niche. What’s not a niche then? It’s like food, consumables, big stuff like that. You have to have your playing field. You have to know who you’re advertising to and then you want to grow it. You want to grow. You start with the hardcore artists, then the people that want to be artists, and everyone who’s suppressing their inner Van Gogh and that’s like you’re expanding out like that, which I think is a good way because you got to start somewhere.

If it’s too niche like he’s saying, that’s because you can’t grow it. I think if you start with your core, then you grow outward from there. That’s what I think a huge part of our courses are going to do is that it gives a platform for somebody. You don’t have to already be an artist to be a professional artist. You have to be someone who always wishes they could draw. This can do it the fastest.

Start with your core; then, you grow outward from there. Share on X

Somebody wants to express their creativity and be in touch with a different side of themselves other than entrepreneurship. Look at the president and he wanted to draw. I like niche businesses, especially if you could start with the core and expand upon that like you said. People have told me, “Selling companies are niche. It’s not for everybody.”

You know what? There are 32 million businesses in the United States. At any given time, 20% to 30% are up for sale. That’s not that niche to me. I partnered with a graphics company that specializes in graphics for first responders. Everybody said, “That’s a niche, niche.” No, it’s not. You know how many first responders, ambulances, fire trucks, and police cars are around the United States and other countries. Guess what? You can expand to commercial vehicles if you want to.

You have to start somewhere. Start with a core, then build out.

Start with your core and build out.

“I think everybody’s out. I’m blown away with these numbers, man. Why do you believe that we can make your customer acquisition costs lower? Anybody in the world could walk up to you and look at your business from an acquisition cost and say, “I can do better than that a hundred percent,” when you have done so well, they’re lying.”

You know what? I can’t begin to tell you how many marketers are lying to you. I’m going to tell you I spent probably over a quarter of a million dollars hiring the wrong marketing people. You have to do your due diligence. Damon is a 1000% right. Would you agree?

Yes, 100%. I was thinking of my business partner, Jim. We’ve been working together since I stopped making my garage. He does the design and the logistics. The manufacturing side of it. People always call him because he’s got a business, he’s got another business he does as well. They say, “What are you paying for your metal?” “I don’t know. They don’t say that.” They say, “We can save you 20% on your metal costs.” He then says, “What am I paying?” “I don’t know what you’re paying.” “How do you know you can save 20%?” It’s like the same. They say that to you. People will say that to you. They’ll say like, “We can lower that.” Of course, you’ll say that. It’s a lot easier said than done.

You can’t trust everything you hear. That’s when you have to align yourself with experts and do your due diligence, especially on marketers. Do your due diligence.

“I know the courses, for sure.

I’ve never done that before. I don’t have expertise in that area. We have 70,000 emails, 70,000 customers of people who have bought them before that we don’t have anything to sell them.”

I’m going to stop it right there. 70,000 emails. I wasn’t even planning on stopping there but 70,000 emails. My gosh, that’s another IP. That’s your database. Clients will pay a lot of money for a database because they want that information.

Without even trying. We weren’t trying to get people’s emails. We got them in the course of selling them things like we weren’t doing like active ways of like lead magnets or any way to get them at that point, too. We had this goldmine. We don’t even know what to do with it.

70,000. Think about that. When people go to look at buying a business or acquiring a business, one of the things they’re going to value, they’re going to value your patents for sure. They’re going to value how many revenue streams you have, if you have recurring revenue, your trademarks, etc but they’re going to value your database.

They’re going to look at how many emails you have, how active they are and what can they do with those emails. Having 70,000 while not reaching out to them, a lot of people struggle to get emails. They struggle to get the 70,000. That’s a gold mine. That was untapped by you because you and I talked about this earlier.

Yes, for sure. We weren’t doing anything with it. We weren’t trying to grow it either. That was a huge advantage to something that we took away from this about getting ahead of ourselves here.

“Thousand emails? I feel like I want to go home. I’ll offer you 300,000 for 20%.”

Here’s what starts a negotiation. It is interesting.

“I think I came in with a pretty reasonable evaluation. $3 million, which is five times.

Sometimes people come in here and they evaluate it based on sales or projecting both of math into the future. I came with real hard sells.

Yes, 100 percent.

Would you do it for 12%?

Let me paint the picture.”

The highest I can go is 15.

That’s exactly where I wanted to land. Got you. Thank you. Give it to me. Come on, baby. There you go. I love you, man. Thank you.

Good job.

Congratulations, Les.”

That’s exactly what he wanted to land. Let me ask you this. Was it the highest? Is that something you made up?

I feel like we were both dancing to that number when he said 20. I said 10, he said 20. I thought, “Okay, it’s 15.” That’s what it is but I came in with this. You could say, “Please, could you maybe do 12?” No, you have to come in and make an argument because if you look like you’ve got some wiggle room in that dance to the middle, they’re going to think, “Let’s scoot it over.”

Now we’re going to end up at 17.5 or something like that because you showed some weakness or you showed a tell that you have more flexibility. It’s funny to think about that too because Damon said, “That’s exactly where I wanted to land.” It’s funny because he had his assistant apologize immediately and on several occasions.

He said, “I wanted to let you know, no disrespect. I wanted to make it interesting for TV to say it that way. He was trying to make it interesting for the show, but he was very conscious. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with what he said. I thought it was funny but he was trying to apologize. “I didn’t mean no disrespect for that.” I didn’t take any. I thought it was a fun process.

He was apologetic after that?

He wanted to be clear that when he said that’s right where I wanted to land, I guess he didn’t want to think that he sounded presumptuous.

He didn’t want to show disrespect.

I thought it was completely unnecessary, I didn’t even think anything of it. I was like, “No, that’s cool.” We’re negotiating, we’re on TV. I get it. It was funny. We both laughed when he did it because it was a good punch line.

It was funny. I loved it when he said, now you’re talking dirty. It was hilarious. What happened after the tank? You got a deal, but then you didn’t get the deal. Let’s talk about that.

It was interesting. First of all, I was in the tank and it’s mentally draining. I talked to my business partner and gave him the debrief. I give my wife the debrief. I’m in the hotel and I’m so tired. I’m trying to eat. All of a sudden, I’m like, “I’m so excited.” I feel it in my gut. I got a deal but I got to give 15%.

That’s called seller’s remorse.

It was like going back and forth. It’s like with me, my business partner I’ve had forever. It’s like we’re buddies. It’s all in a handshake. We do the paperwork and we have enough paper. We trust each other. It’s cool. You have two partners who are equal partners, work on it. It’s not just the 15%. It’s the outside investor.

Damon, he’s awesome but it’s like the going back and forth. I’m so excited. I don’t know, but I gave up all that 15%. It was an interesting process. It was an emotional roller coaster. It was exciting. I would not trade that. I would do it a hundred times over. Going in the tank. The experience was fun. The exposure was awesome. Everything about it was great. I loved it. They have a psychiatrist come talk to you to make sure you’re cool and I was cool.

Before and or afterward?

Before and after, because some people obviously could have had a horrible time. Like my first time, I think the psychiatrist’s name was warranted, but they have one ready on hand. He was a cool dude. He came and talked to me before, then he came to talk to you after to make sure that everything was cool. I was fine. It was like I was on a high, like a roller coaster. If you got out there and more like the first time, that was more of the feeling that the hotel the second time was a disappointment.

You didn’t feel disappointed on the first show because you didn’t get a deal.

I was disappointed. The first time I did, I think I was convinced. I thought I could get a deal. I didn’t go in there thinking it was going to be a joke, laughed off kind of thing. I was hoping that one of them had a similar struggle with me and wanted to put in a relatively small amount of money. I think I was asking $30,000 for 10 or 20. I don’t remember because I didn’t have any sales.

They wanted to help me with the patent and that thing. If they didn’t, I was hoping they would see the value of it. One thing is that my barfing dummy malfunctioned and barfed all over the floor. I was testing it in the hotel. I pitched to a bunch of executives before, it was too thick and it didn’t come out enough. I thinned it, but I thinned it too much and it came shooting out all over the floor.

I feel bad that I did not find the first episode.

Watch the whole first episode. It’s Hulu where I watch a lot of stuff when I’m doing it. They circulate through what seasons are current, but I’m pretty sure season two is currently available for streaming. I guess Episode six or something. I’m sure you can find out which episode it is by saying that when it talks about a barf bag or something.

We’ll make sure we put it in a show notes. You get a deal with Damon. Does the deal come to fruition?

I can’t get into the details, but it did not come into like this. What we negotiated on there, that didn’t happen like that but what ended up happening was there’s a lot of pieces to it that I can’t get into where the main reason he wanted to make the deal because of a company that he had that would have been beneficial, that he broke ties with that company for various reasons.

What we ended up with was a good relationship where I got a lot of mentorship and continued access to his team. I’m very happy with the arrangement that we have. When we agreed upon that, it was a huge relief because it’s like we keep our assets, he keeps his assets. We’re there and doors open for future stuff if we need it.

Sitting down with Damon, I’ve talked with him several times and with his team, with Ted, the president of a Shark Tank company. The high-level mentoring we got for him on email marketing, to be able to start making use of our email list and then clean it up. For one thing, get the old emails out of there. Then we’ve grown it. I think we’re up to like 90,000 now having cleaned out a lot of the old emails that were old and non-responsive.

We have a whole new strategy for advertising that way. We have a huge platform that we didn’t have. We had those emails but having a warm email list with people who are used to responses, who are responding, who know you, who have some cadence of blog posts and things we’re sending out. A community deep. It is more than just data. That’s something that we’ve been able to cultivate to have a community and we have that platform now. That was a huge part of the mentoring that we got from Damon and his team.

Great. You were able to access his team. You’re still able to access his team and you probably got more valuable resources, content, and information in that relationship that helped you even beyond the money.

Yes, because that was the biggest thing too. That’s what Robert asked you. Why do you need the money? You made all this profit or what do you need to deal with? That’s what we’re looking for, that partnership and that mentorship. It’s a huge thing to be able to do that. It’s awesome to be on the show. You get huge bursts when it airs and that thing. It’s a constant third-party validation as well but it’s a long-term structure of how you’re making money that’s important. That’s like a company could go on Shark Tank and then go out of business. That happens all the time because It can’t save you forever.

It’s not sustainable. It gives you that huge boost. It gives you the mentorship. It gives you a lot of assets, but it’s not sustainable. You have to turn around, use those assets, and continue to grow the company. My daughter went to art school and all that, and she still hasn’t learned. I guarantee you, when we get Lucy, I bet you she learns.

The cool thing about that is that I think you’re talking about the different streams of revenue. That’s a fourth stream of revenue that we’re now starting to grow because schools would start buying it from us. We have the National Museum of France, and a bunch of schools buy it. We buy sets of 20, but you get it for the whole classroom.

There are a lot of schools buying this. We went to the National Education Association show in Minneapolis last month and showed a bunch of teachers. It’s growing that avenue as well. It is such a good tool to teach kids how to draw because it saves them from saying, “I’m not an artist,” and then giving up. For kids, especially it’s like immediate success.

Long-term growth is so important to them because it does teach them to draw what they see. For art teachers who know how to use it, it’s awesome. It’s even better for schools that don’t have an artist teaching art. That happens a lot. They have some other teachers teaching it. If they’re a trained artist, that’s best. If they’re not, they better have the Lucy because they teach them.

It’s another revenue stream. When I talk about revenue streams, you should have 3 to 5 marketing channels or 3 to 6 marketing channels. You should have 3 to 6 revenue streams on how you get paid. As far as your client base, I call these patrons, that’s my 50. You should have 3 to 5 or 3 to 6 different ways you get paid through different diversified client bases. The end user who wants to learn how to draw, who’s never drawn before is one. Artists who want to perfect their skills are another client base and in schools would be a big third one. Those 3 to 5 or 3 to 6 go throughout all those different pieces.

You parse it up more that way because then that makes perfect sense.

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs who want to go on a Shark Tank?

Before Going To Shark Tank

First of all, I would say that Shark Tank is like you have that coolness factor. It is not the only way to do business. Most businesses, most successful businesses do not go on Shark Tank. If you can get on there, there’s no reason not to try. If you’re in a place where you could use that venture capital and that partnership, there’s no reason to try.

Don’t give up if you can’t because there are other ways of doing it. I think you need to try to do as much as you can on your own to try to have as developed and impressive numbers and as good a business as possible once you get on there. You need to have some angle because it is also TV. It is a very real negotiation. It is a very real reality show.

They don’t know anything about you when you walk out there. It is all real. Nothing is scripted. make sure it’s a show too. You need to be entertaining. Some people have to make up gimmicks or do some cutesy thing. If you got to do that, do that. If you have something you could tie into the business that’s entertaining itself, do that.

Behind the scenes, the only thing they know about you when you walk out there is your first name and because it was 2021, your vaccination status. For them to decide if they want to touch you or not. In the episodes before season 12, there was no touching. 13, they had said no touching the people but then the people started hugging and shaking hands.

Damon hugged you.

He did. You can hear him if you see it. I didn’t know it at the time. I heard it later. He’s like, “I guess there’s no question. Hug?” “We’re not going to hug?” He was asking. I didn’t even notice. I guess I don’t know, maybe they’ll say, I’ll hug someone who’s vaccinated or someone who’s not or they want to hug someone only if they’re not vaccinated. I don’t know.

That’s the only thing they know about you going out there. They do have a bug in their ear. I don’t know if they ever tell them anything. Maybe when someone’s lying because they do a lot of due diligence beforehand. If you want to get on Shark Tank for publicity, no.

I’ve seen people go on Shark Tank and not want to deal but just to get the publicity.

You can get away with that sometimes. What you can’t do is lie about your numbers because they check all that before you get on.

What you can't do is lie about your numbers because they check all that before you get on the Sharks. Share on X

They do their due diligence ahead of time.

Yes, the studio does due diligence ahead of time to make sure you’re not making stuff up. The Sharks even do more afterward. If you go in there in bad faith, they’ll tell you, “We air closed deals.” Know that if you go in there and you make a deal in bad faith and you pull out from it and you’re like, “No, sike.” No, they might not air it because of that. I don’t know the whole history of everything. I don’t know all the backends of everything, but basically, that’s something they tell you. They don’t want you to come out there. It doesn’t matter.

Even if it could end up one way or another, you have to be doing it in good faith. You have to be truthful in what you’re saying. Things don’t always work out the way that you intended originally or whatever. I don’t know if they hold that against you. If you’re going to say, I’m going to make a deal, then later say, nope. Then especially if you get your Shark upset about that, it’s not going to end well necessarily for you.

You’re not messing with guppies. You’re messing with sharks.

They book more than they can shoot and they shoot more than they can air. The first time I was on, I had more exposure to other people because the second time it’s like they put you in a trailer by yourself. It was COVID. You were sequestered. The first time I was there for 4 or 5 days and constantly with the same group of people, but it was 10 different people. You see them all the time when you walk around and you chat with them. There’s one of the main guys I was talking to the most because as my age dude, and we talked a lot. His episode never aired. It never will at this point. I would assume that was an episode that was in season two.

Is that because it’s not exciting enough?

I know he wasn’t happy with the results but yes, that is the thing. If you fail miserably, like I did my first season, and it’s entertaining, they’ll air it. If you succeed and do an awesome pitch like I did the second time, they’ll air it. They want good television. It’s possible that you could get a deal and they not air it because it was boring.

I think that most of the time when you get a deal, it’s more like unairable stuff or things that aren’t worth airing. It’s more like they flopped. They were boring. It was uninteresting. You can fail interestingly or fail in an uninteresting way. Uninteresting failures, I don’t know. I know they shoot a lot more. I see people on the set that don’t end up getting air.

Exit Rich | Les Cookson | Leveraging Shark Tank

Leveraging Shark Tank: If you fail in Shark Tank, you can fail interestingly or uninterestingly.


Nobody likes boring. To recap, when you go on, have a great intro. You have three seconds to make that great impression. Know your stuff, know your numbers. If you have patents, it’s even more beneficial. Have a realistic valuation. Be confident. Know how to negotiate. Don’t be a pushover. Don’t be a guppy. Sharks eat guppies.

It is hard. It is a surreal experience being on that. I’ve done it twice and both times I was in a different position myself where I was and in my negotiating position. Both times it was a surreal experience because you see these people on TV all the time, and all of a sudden you’re in front of them. They’re asking. Everything in my mind is a complete focus.

I wrestled in high school and that was the closest. It’s a combat sport. Anyone who’s done a combat sport was you and another person on a mat or in a ring, it’s the complete focus. The crowd disappears. You don’t hear anything. Hopefully, you hear your coach or the ref trying to stop around or something. You get so ultra-focused on it.

They’re asking questions and they’re talking over each other. Lori was being polite in asking a question. Mark Cuban talks over her. You have to tell him, “Mark Cuban, I’m going to answer Lori first.” You have to say it that way because I can’t say, “No, I’m going to ignore you, Mark.” You can’t ignore Mark. I can say, “I want to answer Lori’s question first.”

Lori’s a shark. If I’m like, “Excuse me, I’m not answering your question.” I can do that. They talk to each other. They move on with this or that. Mark kept asking questions. At a certain point, he was done and people were arguing with him. It was about 30 to 40 minutes of stuff that got condensed into 10 minutes. You have to be prepared, and concise and you want to make a point. Mark asks you a question, and you’re still answering another one. You have to finish and do your thing or adapt.

You have to be in control because otherwise, they’ll control you. You have to be respectful but be in control and confident.

Playing the sharks against themselves is a good way of doing that. If you’re trying to explain something and they interrupt you, It’s a weak thing to say, “Let me finish what I’m saying.” If you say, “Let me answer Lori’s question.” That is a stronger way of doing it because then it’s like, “You’re not filibustering me by not answering my question. You’re answering someone else’s question. Whatever.” Mark rolls his eyes, sits back, and waits.

Exit Rich | Les Cookson | Leveraging Shark Tank

Leveraging Shark Tank: Playing the Sharks against himself is the way of doing that.


That’s a great tip. Instead of saying, “Let me finish talking,” say, “Let me answer Lori’s question.”

If you are filibustering and you’re not answering anyone’s questions, that’s a problem too. You should work what you want to say into the questions that are being asked.

Focus is key because if you become very nervous, become very distracted, and do not get your point across, you do not get a deal.

Fortunately, I do better on reality TV than I do in a party situation. That’s how my brain works. Small talk, I’m bad at that. Negotiating with sharks on TV, that’s at my speed.

I feel the same way. I agree with you. We got a run. Any last-minute golden nuggets for those inventors and entrepreneurs?

If you have an idea, be reasonable about it and if it doesn’t work out, move on to something else. You’re more than your ideas because you can come up with more ideas.

If you have an idea, be reasonable about it. And if it doesn't work out, move on to something else. Share on X

You’re more than your ideas. Your ideas don’t define you.

Go to DrawLucy.com. Check out the Lucy Drawing Tool. Check out our courses at DrawLucy.com. My pitch was entertaining. The video we have on there that demonstrates the Lucy Drawing Tool is also very entertaining. Everyone should go and watch that as well. We put a little showmanship in that to earn your attention to watch the video and learn more about it. Thank you, Michelle, for having me on. This was a lot of fun. I enjoyed it.

I had a lot of fun too. I was like a kid in a candy store. I love finding out how entrepreneurs dropped out of college. I’m not saying you drop out of college, but I like how entrepreneurs drop out of college and start more than a multi-million-dollar company. Thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing all your golden nuggets and your experience on Shark Tank. Thank you to all my audience, tune in every week to hear another episode of Exit Rich.

As usual, continue to subscribe. If you haven’t subscribed, please subscribe to Exit Rich. There’s so much valuable content. Share it on social media, share it with your network of influencers, and share it with your family, your friends, and everybody. Get that message out there. If you need help going on Shark Tank, come see me. I’m sure Les can offer some advice too, but come see me because we get you ready. We get your numbers ready to go on Shark Tank so you can do as well as Les did. Tune into another episode next week on Exit Rich. Thank you so much.


Important Links


About Les Cookson

Exit Rich | Les Cookson | Leveraging Shark TankLES COOKSON – Lucid Art (Shark Tank) Born and raised in the gold country of Northern California, where he still resides, Les Cookson is the tenth of thirteen children. He started working at the family wood yard from a young age. In his early twenties, Les dropped out of college and left his job as a roofer to pursue his passion as an inventor and entrepreneur.

Learning from his hard-won failures, he built a successful business around his invention, the LUCY Drawing Tool, which has not only achieved financial success but also earned the rare honor of being featured on Shark Tank. The LUCY Drawing Tool reflects an image of anything onto your paper, enabling anyone to draw. Learn more at https://DrawLUCY.com.

Les has been married for nearly 20 years and is a father to six children. He enjoys his work as an inventor and entrepreneur and spends his free time with his family, hiking and camping, playing disc golf, or working on projects around the house.


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