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Bootstrapping, and Overcoming Obstacles: Tips, Tricks, and Secrets an Interview with Sophia Syed

Okay. So, hello everyone and welcome to this episode of the virtual entrepreneur,



the title of today's interview is bootstrapping, and overcoming obstacles tips tricks and secrets and interview with Sophia Noreen, and she's gonna be he's an entrepreneur, a mother and a business owner, as well as working as a physiotherapy manager is it.

Oh my



God, that's a game isn't it it's trading hearts left right every time is it. Yeah, so it's just such a damn talking with the experts of fear, Noreen and the focus on today's interview is going to be how to overcome obstacles, so you can scale your business while balancing work life, personal development and family, and if you're new to this podcast, my name is Herbert innocence, and as I said, Today I'm talking with Sophia Noreen and Sophia is really an expert in terms of breaking down those barriers through ethnic products celebration is sorry, through ethnic celebration product, So their company, their company offers celebration products to other different companies such as WalMart, all over Canada and the US as far as I'm aware, am I right in that Sophie entering


play. I, as a minority in in North America, we celebrate, even on the gun, and we've had a celebration of life but it's a busy DIY. And, of course, I'm a busy mom of two daughters at home working a full time job, I didn't have time to DIY, the calibration product, and I thought why not have a like for a week.

Eastern, Halloween, why don't we have these readings available, and have it available at a price point that is affordable because, Let's face it, not everybody is able to afford the SEO.

SEO marketplace that people do make handmade goods, and I love that see but the problem is they have a premium price

premium so I went ahead and I started making products for specifically for our even Amazon but now we're branching into other minority groups in North America and Europe, so that they can also get revenue off the shelves at large. So we asked, what happened was I was at a trade show and Walmart have approached the booth, and they asked, Would you be willing to supply and we supplied Walmart, two years in a row. In Canada, and we do deliver to the US but you're in Canada only on Walmart shelves at the moment. And that's a story for you here but I'm going to tell you and your listeners what happened because I launched in the middle of the pandemic twice. Oh, my. Oh my god.


Oh my gosh, no population wants it, they obviously want to

store has become a little bit of a hurdle for Arch adopters. So, okay, okay, you know, uh, I think we're gonna dive deep into your backstory and how you got started, so that we can really understand, because even though the times have changed, and let's be honest, the world is really changing faster than we thought. A few months ago it was really different, and today it's like, okay, so people are now hiding in their homes. So there's a completely different reality and so these business has to go on people still have to live. So, even though I know there's a lot of businesses, and a lot of people, you know, trying new things to adapt into the current scenario and so it'd be great if you could share some of your interview tips and everything that whatever story you feel like you you know you. You've learned whatever you've learned tips tricks and all this good stuff now. One thing that I wanted to say was I wanted to welcome you here officially and I realised I had.

I just jumped in to ask you a few questions that are here and there, without even welcoming you and usually the way the podcast work is for the listeners who don't know is that my first question usually will tend to focus on asking Sofia Noreen about her background, you know, education, story, family, and then even how she got started into the business, and then we're going to go into asking, you know, some of the things that she would like to share in terms of, you know, tips, tricks and secrets about bootstrapping and, and overcoming obstacles so that the audience in our, you know, in our community of virtual entrepreneurs can understand okay so I can use this here. These there, and then they can relate, as well, to their stories that we're about to hear today, so I'm going to.


If you're ready, I'm going to start with my first question, then we can, yeah, we can go. Awesome, awesome, awesome. Can you tell us a bit about yourself now you did share a little bit there but could you tell us a little bit about yourself in terms of education background and experience on how you got started.


Exactly.


And I'm very fortunate to be doing that. We're working in a local hospital, and notice the innocent and realise I really did invoice to do therapy but I'm the type of person that likes pains that like start things new idea want to have fun. Unfortunately, in the environment that I was in hospital, you can imagine.


It's bigger. It's a bigger organisation

organisation and, you know, things take time to get started, you know, but for me, like myself, like, quickly. It wasn't the right match, and I think that I've learned that over the years, being a self starter and wanting to execute quickly sometimes, your job or organisation, even your career may not be the right match for you, that somebody, you know that you've identified yourself to be that way or vice versa, during startup and then moving very clean and that type of person who doesn't like change and that comes down to the personal development side and really understanding who you are as a person takes time, and then, you know, you find the right match after that so that was where I was about three years ago, and I just didn't feel right and at the same time I was basically coming up with this plan with also Sofia company which I mentioned earlier, I had started it off with money envelope, and I did a kind of our semi risky thing I designed the money envelopes and I got introduced overseas because I wanted them to be at a good price point for our customers. And I didn't, I didn't get any samples so the thing is, when you, if nipples made across a lot of capital to make a sample so I just produced the whole batch, they printed it out for me. You know looked over the video and I got brought over. And it was, and I kind of thought to myself, you know, Am I going to let that go, I'm sitting here very comfortably in this job in this job. They've given me my retirement to decide to retire, you get your full salary for the rest of your life, you die.



Right, so think about that for a second. There's nothing. There's nothing like that any longer, they don't give you more so I was in a very difficult position. Am I going to let go of my idea with neural IPs, obviously had the entrepreneurial spirit, am I going to let that go comfortably and that was really I decided you know what happened basically that one day I was at another like show. Let's open a trade show, it was more like a vendor vending events, so there were customers and I mentioned to some colleagues that I had done over the holiday break, the beginning of January and they asked what would you do in the holiday break and I said oh I went to this event and I showed them the product, and they're like, they looked at me and he said, How are you still working this job, you know you have something here.


And they were like, and I knew he this is where coming to comes to the whole bootstrapping business, the whole, the whole thing of bootstrapping, I'm working my job to fund the business, but my time and energy is lacking now, I can't continue running a business like this and still working full time, and then of course still managing the household and the kids right we don't have the backup help at home so that is the reality of it right, I literally with my notice. And then this is where it gets interesting gave my notice.


And then I told another person that I was leaving the job, so don't worry I'm gonna, you know transition the role so you'll have somebody sitting in my seat and whatnot, with another clinic in the community, and that connects me what we want you to come and work for us.


What do you need us to do. And I said, Well, I'm not working full time anymore because I wanted to spend some time working the business, and of course to get rebalanced the life. My husband worked a very hectic job, and wasn't able to manage the kids, obviously it bother me and I didn't want to hire anybody. So, I said I'm only gonna work part time, So they created all three parts, and they actually written a contract that they would, you know accommodate for my family. And so it's interesting because I was ready to dive in.


And then I kind of got pulled back in and so hence the reason I'm still working as a clinic manager in an organisation, it is a bit smaller than the hospital it's still within the same geography, but the organisation is a bit more nimble, if it's my personality type. I've been able to make good good gains in that clinic as well like for the for the community, it's a publicly funded clinic so you know I'm still my roots are still sitting in there, but I have been able to move off of Sophia at the same time so that was after that, we did the Walmart did another Indigo. And so it's been a wild ride around a while to me COVID Hit COVID has put a few snags in our plans.


Unfortunately, but I think that's the journey of entrepreneurship, I think that's what everybody has to be really willing and ready to be embracing, if they are going to take that journey. I don't think you can't predict the future if we had, if we could predict the future, you know, it wouldn't be as fun entrepreneurship would be kind of, you know, okay, you might as well work your job then because he worked a job you always.


You always have that right.

Well, I would say not always because sometimes you never know when the company decides, hey we need to downsize and I think.

And I think for a lot of some of the entrepreneurs that have come across, that is the biggest fear because you could have worked for it half your life, half your, maybe not your life that's a long time, but you could have.


You could have worked there for 10 years 12 I've heard cases of someone who has only worked there, you know their entire professional career, and then suddenly they're being told you know you, we can support all the employees. And that's what myself. He's on the verge on the urge trying to retire, how do you, so sometimes it's that element of being, you know, put in a position where you're forced to go and look for other means that you know drivers so I understand what you mean there in terms of, you know, these are security I think that comes the job you don't have to worry about tomorrow you just show up, get it done, you go home you sleep.


It's a, it's a nice routine, it's a very predictable routine, which is very nice and comfortable but I think sometimes that comfort, has its own I don't know what you'd call the word for it, but it's, it's only comfortable for today, but not so much for tomorrow, if that makes sense

to comfortably, harmonious with my personality.



Try things out and just be comfortable. Yeah, USL Stasha. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, that's what you said, I mean, I wanted to ask you this, actually, you said you mentioned earlier that, you know, you started this company because you like doing things but I wanted to get your, your, what was the drive what was the one beside wanting to do something new, wanting to have that control what else was the drive for you in studying Sophia also Sophia.

My siblings.


The other families but we stood out. And I think just not being included in all the celebrations we were not allowed, or even if we were allowed it was not the celebrated within our family unit, so it's a bit different so seeing pieces, and inclusion is a big foundation for me as a person. I studied anthropology growing up in school I studied abroad, I did placements in Kenya. And so, for physiotherapy and work in villages so I think being able to execute.


For me, on getting the product on the shelf was, I felt my responsibility, because I'm a first generation of course, my parents are brought up, were born in India. My mom came to Canada when she was 13 My dad came when he was 20, but I was here, I was one of the earlier. South Asians in the Toronto area, and now if you look at our area. We have many people from all over the world that you identify as the Muslim who celebrate.


Celebrate.

It would be considered in this environment, they call it a six activities, and I said nobody else will be able to act. I knew I was able to, you know, I felt like okay it's my responsibility now to do it because I know, like, you know, really interesting, because my friend, my best friend, she a lot printing flora. So she I lost because when we got on a call with somebody, Walmart said yes let's let's do the deal. Right. And so, she grew up in retail family her parents used to own adults dollar stores that have had connections with


all sorts of big retail, as we learn the phone was one of her uncle's friends and the friends I said Okay, so we're gonna get a warehouse, and we've got a company to help us overseas and obviously I'm not travelling to do this I'm doing all virtually entrepreneur relief as well as

travelled overseas guys I do this all, anything is possible. And so, we're gonna get a forager we're gonna do this in the warehouse and Lauren, because she can feel those steps there was too overwhelming. And to prove it for me, I was like I could see like I could see how we were going to do that until it's not my responsibility then make it happen to me. Yeah, yeah so yeah I hope that answers your question. No, It does, yeah, yeah, yeah, I think.


I wonder if this is a rephrasing what you're saying, we feel like we are called upon to be of service to others, right, and sometimes the type of service you can provide only we have a specific maybe, maybe mindset, and we'll combine with our own personal energy that makes us unique, to provide it in a way that we see or fit our communities, I don't know if that's, is that the angle you're going with the because I I can understand that I think it's a sense of responsibility really resonates because a community, family, all these things coming together and then you seem to be very centred around those seams community is very big part of your life, is that correct.


Even when Walmart, were very small.

Right, remember, this is a piece of accounting. Yes, yeah 4000 stores alone in the US and we have 400 from Canada. And I don't know what they have globally but it's a big deal with us as a small small two person company. It's insane to think about it, but what, what they realise is that we have a community. Yeah, so, you know. Yeah, I think your point is definitely a community driven initiative for me and equity inclusion, and then being able to see the vision to get it to that place, I think, again, responsibility, and service.



Other communities as well, for sure, we're going to be extending so very, very grateful to have people on the team that do identify with additional minority groups who are very invested in them as well.


And we're gonna get to the challenge in the covered bits. The other obstacles in the middle, but I wanted to ask you because you're, you're really centred around this community element and I really love it and I wanted to ask, did you ever have a mentor or someone who, you know, helped you develop that passion for community and connection.

I've been in in community before, and I don't know if I had a mentor specifically for that.

For business you're in there, of taking guidance, but not nobody that I met with regularly enough to be considered a mentor, I've had mentor conversations.


And then in regards to community, like I was part of a different part of a community, and I would use them as a focus group more so, they obviously didn't want to be back because they were from the community I was serving, and the mentor national, she definitely guided me, so I guess it definitely in a way, yes I did have a group that I started with, and I think sometimes that is important for the starting area, not well supported. And it's difficult to be able to, well it's not difficult, it's definitely possible.




But it might be more difficult if you don't know where you're going, really, very positive, very, like, It's not like the past that I was given with my physiotherapy jobs in the hospital at Academy my pension plan that you're working here for 25 years or 35 years and when you retire, you're gonna have your full salary that's right the entrepreneur.


Yes, you need to, should be a choice for your mental health and well being, it's a good idea to have a mentor or a community to help you and I don't just integrate questions I never thought about how that may have been impacting me, although I wasn't an active member in the group, you know, I signed up, I was in it, having that knowledge that there was other women like me that were doing something similar was enough. Yeah, and I think, you know, if you're in this, and you don't have like minded individuals living in your vicinity then having great.


Yeah.

Yeah, absolutely. I agree and I think being in a committed and having an influence in the community also puts you on the radar, even of the giants that you're talking about like Walmart, like big business partners who otherwise would consider you, you know, to be too smart to be partner with them, because anyway to it. I don't have to dive.

I do not want to deviate too far from the main topic but yeah, it's absolutely is very you know, important, like what you say there as in it's, It allows you to provide to get the support you need. So when you were talking about that, I was, you know, thinking about all these things because you do really radiate as a person who really values community. And sometimes, and sometimes as entrepreneurs. I know for myself, it's easier to get down, head down on things you're doing, and forget all these other important factors that just helps us so much more.


So hearing you saying that was like, oh yes, that's a really big thing that people should be conscious of. So that's a, that's a good. It's a good point that I'll definitely recommend anyone who is actually on this adventure on this, in this game. Now my next question is a is on a, we were talking a little bit and you say is that you know when you started your business and coffered hitch. Now, not to lead too much into the COVID side of things, but I'm wondering what is the biggest obstacle that you feel you faced in terms of building your business.


I think getting over my own inhibitions like my own.

Getting over my own mindset of being able to sell.


The big thing for me because I work in the public for so long, I was, I was a public servant, working in a hospital, get there. I've never had a hard time

for products. Now when you check for products that's different. Yes, Yeah, typically you see what's being James.

I am now moving a little bit more.


My kids could probably hear that on the mic.


Partnership workload life balance and family Hey, right there, right there,

helping people get their businesses off the ground just because people were asking so much right I was getting inquiries still getting inquiries, how can you help us, we see that you visit with your business.


So, even even for my time it's very difficult, very difficult for me to say this is my time. And so I think mindset for me over the whole whole journey so far has been the most difficult even speaking up and saying, Yeah, that's what I want to do, no that's not what I want to do. It took me so long to put my traditional job. I just changed positions thinking that was a problem but it was never the problem, the problem was I was in the wrong organisation to be organisation, it was more nimble and yes I could have done physiotherapy, on my own. Physical. Physical therapy field therapy we have clinics, that was an option but for some reason wasn't speaking, listening to your own intuition. Having a mindset to sell I think those are the biggest obstacles to overcome.


That is, yeah, I can I can imagine actually, I could. That's totally speaks to me they're, like, totally understand yeah charging for time is not. Yeah, it's not. How did you how did you suppose, how did it click for you be like, okay, it's okay to do this What helped you.

Yeah, I'm still struggling with it I'm definitely not I'm definitely not an expert at it, yes. But I realised that the people who are willing to invest monetarily.


And not to say that you can't get a hold of me or need my information without not saying that you have to pay for it. We also have a podcast. Definitely for free you can get all the knowledge, but people are less likely to take action unless they pay for three pieces, art, even if it's hard and I turn around and, you know, eventually give it all to charity, at least you have invested your energies through money, and now there's more likely to take action so I realise in a way that I'm doing my students a disservice if I just say to them, okay, well, you know, it's for free, Sundays and you're not sleep.


Realise that they're not being held accountable. Versus if you pay for it, you're almost held accountable, right, it's like free classes people lower attendance right versus, and it's also like self selected individuals who then give your information and your energy for people who know will be taking the time and energy. So it's almost like a selection process. People know me.

For right now they can definitely have content in a different fashion that's free, but anybody who needs more hand holding or higher touch.

Those are the individuals that we know, likely will try to move forward with a business. Now there will be conducted in their in themselves.



So it's still a process for me but that's kind of how I've been reasoning through it. So that way easier for me to say okay well.

Yeah, I think it's, I, I like better reasoning because it took me a very long time to come to that, to, to learn that reasoning, and I actually didn't come to it I saw someone else teaching it I was like, that's a good idea so hearing you saying that again is bling is bringing back, you know, good old memories. You're starting from the beginning, because it is quite tricky to charge your own your time, and especially the start I think it's a very, very tricky. Now, let's say, let's say, if you're in the, in this case you're, you know you're teaching your students and so they're going to go about and do something.


What, what would you have done if your case or sewing service but not necessarily teaching, would you think that will apply to the same method also apply. So for example, so for example if you were doing physiotherapist right, you open your clinic right now, obviously as a, as a physiotherapy, that is your area of expertise so you know what to charge, but let's say for example in this case you didn't know what to charge but you had the business. And even though you're charging for time. Do you think that's what would you still use the same reasoning to to apply the prices and everything. Yeah,




compared to if I worked as like a business mentor, or business. Yeah, because, yeah, and the reason why I'm asking that is because I'm imagining, let's say, let's take my example when I was starting, I started in the photography section and one of the things that I really struggled was, I could photograph. I was photographing for business corporates, and my pricing wasn't matching to the standards of the professional level but my services were, and my clients were recommending me to put my prices so that my services wouldn't look last but comfortably, my heart just, it was a fight about the myself, and so I'm wondering, I can understand how you could charge that if you were teaching because you want them to get better results, and so you're like hey if you invest in yourself, you will apply the material, but then in this case was doing photography. I've just given them the result.

I'm wondering, how would you the same method apply Oh do you think, is there something else that they can do.


I think I think

students are selecting themselves, investing and then they're going ahead and applying and that's the reason I'm giving myself to justify the cost. And then you're, you're saying, Well, how am I going to justify the cost for offering the best quality photography services, because I've already given them the result. So, think of it this way.


If you were able to take less clients because you're charging more money you would be able to give them an even better service. And second, a lot of people for some reason have always asked price points to better quality. So you're actually reducing your quality in their mind, that's why they're so surprised when they get the results, they're like wait a second, why did he charge so low. If quality is so good he should charge higher.


So you're actually almost deceiving, I'm doing air quotes for anybody listening, your clients thinking they're going to get a premium product and then you surprise them when you give them a very good price, a very good product. And the thing you're pricing your products are not matching. So there's a very interesting analogy. So if you know like Louis Vuitton Bay are many fakes affair, there's many original bags. If I go and give you an original Louis Vuitton bag and I take it as a piece, then it becomes a piece.


Yes, yeah, yeah. You're like the Louis Vuitton, if you're the original and you're doing that level of work, you should be pricing at that level so it's not deceptive and if you maybe we frame it that way it's easier for you to say, oh, you know, I have the quality work that my colleagues do in community.


That's it. Another way of reframing it actually is by saying to yourself, I can't price myself lower, because it would put my policy, my community of photographers at risk and questioning why their work is at that price point so I have to match that standard.

I think I think it makes sense. Yeah. No, for me it makes sense, and now I understand it, but I think it's something that you have to like learning to walk, isn't it, it's like, maybe not work because you do that before you realise what you do.


It's like learning to maybe ride a bicycle right it's when you're on top, and you're like, oh, okay, I just have to keep paddling and steering really that's the magic. And so before you get to if you're worried about all these things like balancing how do you actually do balancing and it's really hard to explain these things until you just take the initial step and then move because for me, I, I had, try and tell myself over and over and over, as well as tell my clients why the service is now this price, and they accepted I didn't, I never lost a client at all, but it's just your, I think we hold ourselves back by not knowing some by being ignorant some of the facts, you know, when you're learning in terms.


So, when you're learning how to position ourself as a service provider. So I think yeah that makes sense there and thank you so much for clarifying that for, you know, for our audience and everything like that. Now, I'm gonna jump into the next set of our questions here, and I think we've already really jumped into there. But what I'm going to do is we're going to try and see if we can pick up any key lessons that you think the audience might enjoy learning in terms of helping them Bootstrap, their company, especially in the current climate, or at the stage that they're at, you know, overcoming some obstacles. Is there any cool trick that you figured out.


We know when you're learning about your businesses or a cool story that you think will really help our audience.


When it comes to, you know, learning how to bootstrap and build a community around their company and brands.


No matter what you're doing easy service the product, I would always say to come up with the minimal viable product compared to that.


And the reason why is because a lot of people take a lot of time to think about it and they give a lot of energy and time to produce something get service via product, and they don't remember that the app itself.


And so, come up with the idea come up with the you know the concept, and then go and look to people who you think are your ideal.


So, don't spend too much time like get it to about 80% I would say that you would sell the concept. Then, make sure you still in tandem are finding your pond of people, so you may have to go to somebody else's con. We have to go to another community.


Facebook group, wherever you're looking for the pond. So my pond was on Instagram, I went and started following a bunch of pages that are similar to the one I wanted to create myself who was their ideal audience and I said okay, that's my ideal audience, Then I went ahead and I started making no friends I guess who that function is a friendship or very beginning. You know when you make a really strong connection. And then, another really big trick, might be a bit more advanced, but once you get your initial product offering service offering, can you know who your ideal client is and you start those conversations up.


Look for a community, a pain community and join it, or a free community and join in on Facebook, one honestly an active member, that's another way of finding your people, and then some more advanced but if he would be using influencer marketing campaign. And that is, that's where we made our solid footprints in our communities.



Influencer marketing campaign, obviously was an investment, but it works. And so, social selling is very impactful, it could be for services as well like for you as a photographer, you could do a bunch of pro bono sessions for affiliates and marketing influencers and they would then go and talk about how good you are the photographer over and over and over again. Eventually, you would build that community around and saying, Oh, we're huge fans, and we highly recommend them and then they.


So, I think people tend to forget that when you build a community around you, you're not just a product or commodity anymore service, you are actually pretty Incorporated, and that's really what's missing. When the competition will come. Yeah, they're always gonna, and that's fine that they come in we can invite.


Make your brand stronger, make your company stronger. And remember, there's no in our community anyways we don't have one grocery store. We have hundreds of grocery stores and the reason why is because different grocery stores, serve different people, different photographers was served.


And so, if you have that mindset, it is a shift because people are not comfortable with competition.

You embrace that it is to build the brand up your strategies you can pay for it.


They won't have the chance.

That is awesome.


That's perfect. That is perfect. I mean we are here we are here to try and, you know, get all this stuff so we can progress forward. And, yeah, I think, definitely.


I can see a lot of things that are, you know, entrepreneurs can take and start you know working with you know from joining groups. You mentioned in first, marketing, and joining, you know, different pages and following other people learning from what they're doing. So I can see a lot of tips there that, you know, if you just take the time and take the no steps forward because it really is a step by step process where you know you don't have to try and do everything at once. So that makes a lot of sense.


That makes a lot of sense here, and I appreciate that as well. One thing I was going to ask is if you have any loss secrets because I know a lot of business owners have a lot of sickness that led them to where they are. Do you have a loss secret that you share with us today.



I, I, you know, LinkedIn, yes.

So I really wanted our pillow for a backup so the story goes like this, I wanted to be part of an event at an event right, there's an application, I didn't make the application. So I was like okay that's fine. I'm kind of annoyed right this is where the entrepreneur or driver comes in, I was like I'm not gonna give up this is ridiculous, I want to be, I want to be in the community I want to do this. So I said forget it, forget the event. obviously, people that they've wanted to put in their, in their roster of vendors. So I decided I'm gonna go even bigger. So I went and I went to the bookstore, so we have a bookstore in Canada.


And it's like a department store. So it's not just for our community, anybody, people.

And with the higher end, they felt like they walked into the floor and I said, you have what many people that tell the break even on this neighbourhood, would you be willing to carry the product, product manual, the flashcards available. They were like, Oh, this is pretty good address for the assignment mean stuff on their shelves or from the items sold, otherwise it's picked up.


So I went home and I emailed and then the email bounced.

But I knew her name. So when I found her responded right away.

So happy products,

communities, coming in, such as for asking for these things they don't have it. Yeah, and so it was a great match so. So there's two parts of the story really one when an opportunity goes away, that means there's a bigger and better opportunity.

Second, When you have an incorrect email address or something is not right, you still can find it you just have to get really crappy to get really, they call it, some

people think LinkedIn was looking for her, so don't don't take no. Yeah, keep plunging ahead otherwise you're gonna shut down. The first time you have multiple. Oh, that is a good one. I love it.


No, I really like it and I absolutely agree. I think every time an opportunity has, you know, gone sideways this always seems to be something else. Bigger and better had cuz I love this example, and how this is, is there, is there anything, any other juicy tips or tricks or secrets that you'd like to share.


Uh huh.

Yeah, yeah, that's so that's where we are, we're almost out here. Yeah, I guess another duty to really take time for yourself.

I really do believe that you have boundaries.

And as a parent.

So I've gotten very strict with way I planned my day, obviously.

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