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Dear Fellow Martial Artists,

We have some MAJOR announcements to make this month! :)

For those of you that might not be aware, we also run a registered non-profit called the Budo Youth Fund who's sole purpose is to help underprivileged youth gain access to the life changing benefits of martial arts. 

In order to fast track reaching our fundraising goal, we put on a charity business seminar featuring world renowned martial artist, author, and keynote speaker, Sifu Singh. The event SOLD OUT IN THREE WEEKS, and was an incredibly powerful session! We are happy to announce that we reached our goal and raised over $10,000 for the Budo Youth Fund all thanks to Sifu Singh - He graciously offered to waive his speaker fee so we could donate 100% of the proceeds to the cause! This means we are getting ready to accept grant applications to fund deserving youth and get them started on their martial arts journey. All that's left to do is get our application intake system up and running. In this issue, we share some sneak peaks of the session and share some knowledge bombs that were reined down on the city of Calgary :)

It's no secret that we love making great products. Well, we hooked up with another awesome company that shares this passion and is eager to help out with our cause. "Shinbudo" has a similar story to us in that they are two dudes chasing their passion. They make some incredible products including bokken, training tanto, naginata, yari, and the list goes on. These fine gents loved what we were doing with our non-profit and offered to donate 3 Bokken to our store with 100% of the proceeds going to the Budo Youth Fund! More on these gents in this month's issue. 

This month we are featuring Michael Billings, a lifetime martial artist who, in spite of his diverse background, respectfully waives the title of Sifu, Guru, or Master. Preferring a low key presence, this will be Michael's first featured article in over 20 years of extensive study. As the article will reflect, Michael advocates a result focused, individualized approach to both training and teaching. Over the years, Michael has worked with martial artists of various experience levels, from beginner to advanced, at times acting as a technical advisor to other schools. Additionally, his unique methods, care, and attention to detail have helped professionals in many fields be more effective in their roles. Including: community health, social work, youth support, emergency response, and security.

Lastly, how could we not talk about Gen-2 of the Hood-Gi! After being plagued by many unforeseen delays, and succumbing to our own perfectionism, we are finally live!!! We listened to you, our customers, as over 700 of you provided your feedback on what you would like to see in the new design. The crowdsourced design turned out AMAZING! And for that, we thank you. We're also hooking up our mag subscribers with a special discount (read more in the article.)




Battlefield strategies for business 

Charity Business Seminar



fundraisning goal: $10,000 ✔️

We recently launched a Digital Seminar with Sifu Singh that has taken the internet by storm! While we were down in California producing the series, there were so many times where we would look down while filming only to find goosebumps on our arms... Sifu Singh has something special, and we kept thinking how valuable the lessons are in everyday life, including business.

Then we found out that companies pay Sifu Singh large sums of money to come give keynote speeches to high performance executives teams and fortune 500 companies across the united states. This got us thinking... what if we put on a charity business seminar where we fill a ballroom full of a bunch of high bandwidth individuals and do something different for the business community??


Well, as soon as we pitched the idea to Sifu Singh, he stopped us mid-pitch and said "Say no more, count me in." It was almost too easy! Next step was to find an ideal space to host the event, and after searching the city, we landed on a space called Nucleus - an entrepreneurship hub in the city of Calgary. It has a co-working space containing some of the most influential entrepreneurs and innovators in the province... so it was a great fit!!! We pitched the idea to the team at Nucleus and managed to lock it down.

Now the real hustle began! We needed to HAMMER marketing the event as we only had 3 weeks to fill all the seats. When we first started marketing it to our inner circle the response was "cool idea bro" with not a whole lot of follow through. This got us a bit worried. But the real test would be if we could get someone who doesn't know us, our company, or our non-profit to attend the event on their own volition. We were about 2 weeks away from the event and we had only sold 20 some odd tickets... Things were looking like it was going to be a flop! Time to turn up the heat and make folks realize that this event was going to BLOW THEIR MIND! To try a new approach, we started putting videos like this on LinkedIn & facebook:


Tickets sales started to pick up, but we were still way behind on our goal. The next strategy was to speak with some influencers in the business community and see if we could garner some further support. We approached Iggy Domagalski, CEO of a successful oil & gas equipment integrator called Tundra Process Solutions, and told him what we were up to. Tundra has raised millions of dollars for charities over the past 18 years including the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer, Kids Cancer Care Foundation, and many other local charities... As soon as we said the word "charity," Iggy replied with "Put me down for 10 tickets." Right then and there, Iggy reached LEGEND STATUS in our books.

We also approached the business Legend, Brad Zumwalt who has been growing technology companies for over 25 years. The man has a HUGE list of successful exists and does some INCREDIBLE work in the community. Brad and and his wife Tanya were among those awarded Calgary’s fifth annual Generosity of Spirit Award for services to Calgary’s community. We approached Brad with the concept and he literally didn't even think twice, whipped out his phone, and purchased 10 tickets on the spot! .... LEGEND STATUS ACHIEVED.

Next we approached Bill Whitelaw, CEO of JWN Energy - the go to source source for oil & gas news, data, research reports and event information. Bill LOVED the idea of harnessing the power of your mind to get through challenging times. Calgary is an energy focused city that got hammered when the price of oil tanked - The effects of which are still being felt today. Bill thought this new take on mindset development was an awesome idea and he offered to promote it through JWN's marketing channels... for free!! Not only that, he bought 10 tickets too and catapulted himself into LEGEND STATUS! Here is the article that he so graciously put together for our cause (click pic to read full article:)


Once word got out that Sifu Singh was coming and putting on this exclusive event, TICKETS STARTED FLYING OFF THE SHELF!!! We ended up completely selling out thanks to the overwhelming support we received from the local business community and the LEGENDS that help make events like this happen.

We spent hundreds of hours putting together the presentation, rehearsing the event, and setting everything up for the big day. We wanted people to get a feel for what this whole "martial arts thing" was all about. So we created a cool slideshow with pictures that we captured along our journey, and put powerful words that represent the virtues of martial arts:

Now that we had the visuals covered, we thought it would be cool to set the energy when people walk into the space with some Japanese Taiko drums. Now, there is no better person we know for the job than our own Sensei. He has been practicing Taiko for over 20 years and really knows how to get a crowd amped up! ... And boy did he ever deliver!! 

chopped BFSFB-2.jpg

Now that the crowd was energetically BUZZING it was time to start the show and get this thing kicked off!! Here's a highlight reel of the seminar:


This means we will be open for grant applications soon! Our goal is to find the most deserving kids across North America and get their martial arts journey started! We will be making some major announcements over the next few weeks once our application intake process is complete. To give you an idea of what we will be looking for, the application will touch on things like:

  • Why do you want to put your son/daughter in martial arts?
  • Why does your son/daughter want to start martial arts?
  • Is there anything preventing you from getting them started?
  • Where would you like them to train?
    • Who is the instructor and what is their philosophy on youth development through martial arts?
    • Do they have a dedicated youth program?
  • Would you be comfortable sharing their transformation with us? Our goal is to share inspiring stories of how martial arts can change lives, and we want to inspire other parents to get their kids started!

Stay tuned for the announcement when our applications are open! 


And thank you for your support! By rocking our gear, you are helping us donate 10% of our profits to the Budo Youth Fund to get deserving youth started in martial arts!


the hood-gi is back


🔥 GEN-2 | HOOD-GI 🔥

Believe us, we know...


The real cause for the delays: We are perfectionists... and product development is f'ing hard! We would test an idea from the crowdsourced survey, incorporate it into the design, get a new sample made, which would lead to another tweak, which would lead to another sample, which would lead to another month of waiting... Then, we tested out the fit on a bunch of different bodies, and have to make some adjustments AGAIN, then wait for another round of samples. Then, after the passing all our tests, we placed the main order... which is still pretty small in the grand scheme of things.

Pretty much everything we do is small batch - We like being that niche player that focuses on quality rather than quantity.

Finally, round after round, we landed on what we feel is the perfect design for Gen-2! 


New Improvements:

  • Kept the original look, but improved upgraded the outer Pearl-Weave Gi material
  • Japanese Blue Wave "CoolDry" liner throughout the entire Hood-Gi for added comfort and movability
  • Went with Ghost Black BB logo on hood instead of white to make the logo more subtle
  • Sleeves can be rolled up to show a wave pattern cuff
  • Increased sleeve lengths
  • Made the hood slightly bigger
  • Slight increase in overall length to help with shrinkage
  • Removed "sweater sleeve" to give it more of a "Gi Feel"
  • Added hidden pouch pocket for your smartphone (or weapons)
  • Added side Kobo/Knife/Weapon pockets on both sides
  • Added hidden "Bro-Shuriken" inside the inner pocket (shuriken not included)
  • Upgraded magnetic buttons

Since we've nearly doubled the material being used by adding the custom liner, as well as all the other design improvements, our production costs have increased substantially requiring us to retail the Hood-Gi at $120 (in order to keep free shipping in North America.)

That said, we want to hook our eMag subscribers with a promo code as a thank you for tuning in each month. The promo code will get you 10% off and a bonus black BB drawstring bag that you can use to throw your all your training gear in.

Use Promo Code:


10% Off + Free Bag


Featured Budo Brother

Michael Billings

MB Cover.jpg

Finding Your Own Way

Pursuing martial arts can lead to a lonely road. Like most worthy endeavors, martial arts require time, hard work, and dedication. But, very few offer an equal potential for self reflection and character development. Often, this doesn’t result in a sense of comfort or familiarity. Self honesty is not easy! If you were to ask ten random practitioners, “why do you train?” you’d likely receive as many answers. With certainty, you’d observe various levels of dedication. Also, consider the number of variables regarding training specifics and methods. It becomes clear martial arts is subjective and needs to be considered a personalized practice.

I know folks who spend hours training each day, working toward obtaining mastery. While others view training as a recreation and social venue. Most people involved in martial arts function somewhere in between the two extremes. Provided the motivation is coming from a place of self honesty, there is no “best reason” for training. In the same way there is no best system. My personal motivation was more a necessity, rather than choice. Martial arts has been a part of my life since childhood, shielding me from trouble, allowing me to remain productive during difficult times. Now 43 years old, martial arts feels more like an old friend, as opposed to something I have to endure. I’m thankful to have such an inspiration in my life. Each day I wake thankful for the ability to learn, share and grow. Martial arts has provided me tools to interpret my surroundings and relate to the world.


My interest in martial arts started when I was a kid. I grew up in the mid 1970’s and early 80’s, watching Jackie Chan and Bruce lee films. Anything Samurai or Gung Fu related as well!  Before formal classes, I was making my own practice weapons based on the films I was watching. Although I practiced, success was moderate at best. I had a lot of fun, I learned a few things, but there were injuries! By 9 years old, I had joined a local martial arts school. My initial exposure to formal training was Shito-Ryu Karate, under Sensei Fernando Correia. I enjoyed the classes, the clarity and discipline. After a short period, my Father joined the adult class, which doubled my attendance.

Due to my Father’s participation, I was given permission to “informally” participate in the adult class. The adult class immediately followed the kids class, and I was active in the conditioning and forms period of each session. This gave me extra practice throughout the week, and I improved quickly as a result. I continued with this routine for approximately two years. Until, one day after class, my Dad took me to a local grocery store to buy a martial arts magazine. We did this monthly, only on this occasion I was in for a pleasant surprise.

As I placed my magazine on the counter to pay, the clerk asked, “so you like Bruce Lee huh?” To which I responded, “yes, I sure do!” She paused, then followed with “wait here, I’ll be right back.” She quickly returned, and kindly placed a large box of books and collectables related to Bruce Lee and various Chinese and Japanese martial arts on the counter. I shared my appreciation and excitement, then took the books home. I read through the various books and magazines to the best of my ability and comprehension. While doing so, I discovered an intense curiosity for the arts I had been reading about. Although, I appreciated my current training, I felt compelled to leave my local club (on good terms) with other possibilities in mind. However, due to the period (mid 1980’s) and being limited by my age (11 years old), there simply wasn’t much available alternatively.


For approximately 8 years, I periodically trained by myself, without any real consistency, doing form and weapons work. In practical terms, I was inactive during my early and mid teens. This continued until I turned about 19 years old. Fortunately, I met a small group offering lessons in Northern and Southern Gung Fu, Filipino martial arts, Thai boxing, Western boxing, and Jeet Kune Do. The group was led by two brothers, Darren and Les Foley, both cofounders of their system. I learned a lot in the year I spent with them, initially focusing on Thai boxing. However, by the end of the year, I had discovered an aptitude for Filipino martial arts. Additionally, I was introduced to numerous arts and instructors from the Vancouver area, along with visiting instructors from the US. In retrospect, this was a formative period. 

1995 was an memorable year, presenting many beginnings. A significant percentage of my foundational material, valued relationships, and training opportunities would surface from this year forward. I met my primary teacher, and friend of many years, Fred Shadian. With Fred, I focused on various aspects of Filipino martial arts (long, medium, and short range methods), Boxing/Street Boxing, learning acceleration strategies, and a relatively unknown art called “Yueng Chuan.” Through Fred, I met my grand-teachers and additional influences. Such as: the late David Harris (Founder of Yueng Chuan/Shoshin Ryu Aiki-Jutsu), the late Master Fook Yueng (Red Boat Opera player, Gung Fu and Tien Shan Chi Gung Master), Steve Smith (The inheritor of Fook Yueng’s methods), and the late Jesse Glover (Founder of Non-Classical Gung Fu). Also, the late Sonny Umpad (Visayan Corto Kadena Largo Mano Escrima), although only through a brief meeting. 

Regardless of politics, hierarchy, time spent, or the period of introduction to each of these genuine masters, I feel compelled to acknowledge their significance. Each one has my deep respect and appreciation, for their roles as exceptional and unique martial artists, and people of integrity. The material I learned from each of them, in some way, has continually influenced my training and thinking for over two decades. They have all been an overwhelming source of inspiration. I can only assume (and hope) the same seeds will continue to grow throughout the remainder of my life. 


By the time I moved to Calgary in 2009, I had unintentionally developed a way of teaching and training that was feeling more uniquely my own. A hybrid approach, reflecting the influences I had known for many years. No doubt a result of exposure to different outlooks applied to similar challenges and training goals. I was progressively focusing on nuances and behavioral clues in the people attending classes. Experimenting with familiar material, using alterative methods become my training focus. Viewing each person independently, rather than fitting them to a system became my teaching focus. Also, I was beginning to see more and more connections between various systems and methodologies.

Since what I had been doing seemed to provide positive results, logically I decided to continue training and teaching in a similar manner. The late Jesse Glover was an innovator and advocate of the personalized approach. His advice, along with my observations of his training methods would prove to heavily influence my thinking regarding teaching and training. Later, his interviews and writings would further reinforce my belief in this direction. It became clear that each person would have to be viewed and approached as a unique potential.

For example, early in my training, I was asked (as a system requirement) to kick above the waist. I eventually (and politely) asserted although I value the skill, it’s not something that comes easily to me. In fact, I worked hard, yet didn’t see any significant sign of progress. I was injuring myself almost weekly and frustrated. In comparison, I had friends who were clearly successful with the same material. They possessed the natural flexibility and control to use the skill and were quickly moving forward. This experience would help shape my current view: The person, their abilities and limitations, are as significant a consideration as the material being explored.

Thinking back, I was slow, uncoordinated, and unsure. In contrast, I noticed how quickly I progressed in alternative areas of training. Such as: footwork, boxing, weapons training, sensory training, and so on. We are all different, and we can progress much faster when practicing material that suits our bodies, physical gifts, cognitive associations, and personalities. The idea being, a person should maximize their strengths, while minimizing their limitations.

Although, it’s important to maintain a beginner’s mind throughout our lives, learning to trust and follow our instinct is essential. Without question, willingness to learn and mindfully assimilating new material has to remain a priority. If a person stops learning, they stop growing. Period. However, when a person embraces the process of absorbing new information, maintaining a beginner’s mind, the risk of becoming stale is minimized. Once a person chooses a process dependant on objective feedback, their training efficiency increases exponentially.

When faced with new material, practitioners have to be willing to filter it through various testing models, analyze the results, reflect and compare desired performance goals, develop conclusions, and continue on. A process of this type provides a fail safe in terms of subjective opinion, system related politics, and fads or trends. It’s quite simple! Create an experiment, have a goal in mind, and the results define progress, or areas needing attention.

With these philosophies in mind, during the summer of 2014, I felt I needed to be formally independent. Without my previous guides, no teachers within reach, questions compounding, I hesitantly embraced my situation. This meant accepting sole responsibility and creative control over my existing training and approach to teaching. It meant dissecting my current resources to find answers. My biggest requirements at that time, were peace of mind, solitude, clearly defined objectives, willing bodies, and a space to experiment. Reframing my isolation into a positive became the basis for what I chose to call “Synthesis,” or “projectSynthesis.”


Currently, my training is primarily self-guided. However, along with being in a position of self-guidance comes distraction and struggling with self doubt. When you make the decision to find your own way, you are obligated to accept the responsibilities, failures, and uncertainties that accompany the choice. The solitude can be challenging as well. Although, through the experience you learn to develop a strength and clarity that can only come from individual struggle and perseverance. There is a comfort in knowing you are completely responsible for both your failures and successes. At some point in your training, it’s all on you! This is a positive.

Even when self guided, it’s crucially important to give credit and praise to support along the way. No one does it 100% alone. Whether it’s help with social media, business management, continual encouragement, advice/council, or feedback in general, it all helps tremendously. Momentum is king, and without some form of support, it’s easy to lose. My support comes from several sources. First, my fiancé, Mai. Without her patience, strength and positivity, I wouldn’t be able to spare the time to write this article, let alone train. My children, Abby, Joseph and Enzo have always inspired me to give my best effort as well. 

My long-time friend, brother and training partner, Nicholas Henderson, has helped me grow in many ways, and for well over 20 years. Additionally, I receive periodic council regarding aspects of history, technical refinements, and related philosophy. In this regard, there are far too many names to mention here. I’ve also received support in the way of a place to experiment and train. My good friend, Ian Holmes, has been patient with my unusual training habits, and odd hours. He’s made me feel welcome at his gym (Ascension Fitness), which has allowed me creative consistency and a home away from home. 

Being in a position to share offers another type of growth as well. One that comes from having to teach to people in a way they uniquely understand. Some people learn best by hearing, some by seeing, others by feeling, and some require a sense of sequence or pattern. The trick is to find the appropriate combination of these learning methods, which then optimize the student’s progress. My students over the years have helped me immensely, in their uniqueness, dedication, feedback, and patience. Again, far too many names to mention in this article, but valued beyond measure never the less.

Admittedly, I wish I could revisit my earlier days in training at times. I miss the simplicity and ease of taking direction from a trusted teacher, within a school or system and group setting. The instructor says, “practice this movement 1000 times each day,” and you do it or not. There is little thought regarding the overall training outcome, and practice subtleties. Generally, the circumstance demands much less responsibility and effort. When part of a club, you’re not responsible for creating the lesson strategies or supplemental material. You do what’s recommended, trust the instructor, work with fellow students, and get in your repetitions.  

Regardless, as a person moves forward, they will need to slowly take on more interest and responsibility as to how they spend their time training. To my surprise, I find that I am still processing information from lessons that took place many years ago. New material continues to surface, and at times it is as though I’m discovering a movement or technique without having been taught it. More accurately though, it practically means another layer of understanding, and natural extensions of existing and familiar material.

I also find analyzing past experiences, research time, visiting the outdoors/nature, and touching hands with martial artists of various backgrounds promotes continual learning. Most experienced martial artists become careful as to what they allow themselves to program into their nervous system, knowing what they feel, practice and train with repetition stays with them. I’m no different. The challenge is to be selective, while simultaneously being open to new experiences and material that enhances existing knowledge and skill. 

My advice to each enthusiastic practitioner I meet is this: “try different systems, different schools and learning from as many willing teachers as you can find.” I suggest with enough exposure, eventually they’ll find the right teacher, and aggregable setting. We live in a technological age, one that allows us access to so much information. Likewise, martial arts schools are everywhere! Master David Harris used to say, “martial arts styles are like ice cream, there’s a flavour for everyone.” It’s important to proceed having accepted there is no “best system,” or superior style. Everything, each technique, and every system you study, no matter how “special,” will inherently possess strengths and weaknesses without exception.


I also find it helpful to mention even if the student successfully finds an excellent teacher right away, they may not recognize it. It’s a case of not being aware of what they don’t know. Like hiring a good mechanic, or carpenter, without familiarity with these disciplines, there’s no way to know if the person in question is honest, efficient or capable in their profession? Also, most high level teachers will not show “inner circle” material to new students, no matter how sincere. On a positive note, with hard work, time, patience, continued sincerity, teachers will eventually feel inclined to share more openly. Regardless, martial arts is a life long pursuit. With this in mind, it’s best to develop and adhere to these qualities anyway. 

The most logical and pragmatic way to improve is to simply start. It’s easy to overthink a new interest. Also, it’s best to be clear from the beginning in terms of expecting a slow and ongoing process. I once spoke with a man who told me with pride and excitement, “I’m taking my black belt test this summer, I’m almost done!”  I had grown up taking for granted a black belt, black sash, even a teaching certification was only the beginning. 

It’s easy to delay or stop your own progress, based on your internal sense of potential alone. It’s even easier to confuse studying philosophy with the physical requirements needed to gain new abilities. Although, philosophy is important reflecting each system’s uniqueness and approach to movement. Philosophy can cause overthinking. Still, personal beliefs form intention, and intention guides movement. Through a better understanding of core principles, a practitioner adds new flavours and qualities to their movement patterns and application. Their cognitive understanding and physical performance begin to merge. But, the basic physical skills need to be fundamentally developed first. 

Tai Chi Master, Cheng Man-Chin, was known to say, “learn to invest in loss.” Similarly, the Uke/Tori relationship conveys the value in learning kinaesthetically. Also, the benefit of interpersonal feedback. The Tori being defined as the partner choosing or performing the technique. The Uke being defined as “the one who receives the gift,” (or “survives the technique”). The philosophy of “investing in loss,” common to Chinese traditions such as Tai Chi and Gung Fu systems are in many ways interchangeable with various Japanese methods (for example, Aikijustu variations.)

To summarize, If a person can learn to set goals, plan training strategies, accept failure, collect and process feedback, and while keeping momentum, they will achieve measurable results. They can also almost always drastically exceed their own expectations! With honesty, integrity and the embracing of accountability, a person can experience a genuine sense of feeling capable. Because, they will have allowed themselves the gift of struggle, leading to effective problem-solving abilities and willingness to persevere until they reach set goals. 

Most importantly, it’s not about any one particular system, not about who represents the system, worship, or what others can do. It’s about appreciating the process of learning itself, and each person’s unique potential. The desire to be competent, through patience and honesty. It’s about refining the process in order to discover the best version of ourselves. This requires courage and independence. For better or worse, martial arts can lead to a lonely road. For the martial artists willing to explore self guided training, and be brave enough to follow their inspiration (subtle, obvious and otherwise) a valuable experience is within reach. Although lonely, it’s a road well worth traveling. 

-Michael Billings


Facebook: Michael Billings/ Project: Synthesis

Instagram: projectsynthesis2014


Shinbudo Weapons

How To Select Woods


We got in touch with the Shinbudo crew a while back simply because we admired their craft and dedication to their passion. They have very similar story to ours in that they are two dudes chasing their dreams, so we naturally resonated.

The team is comprised of Dennis King and Ethan Hubler. Both avid martial artists that make some pretty amazing martial arts training tools. It's cool because they firmly believe that if you're using a bokken to train with (hoping to progress to a shinken) it shouldn't feel completely different. To do that, they focus on finding denser woods, and using alternative materials to create bokken that capture the feeling of training with a live blade without sacrificing the durability needed for standard training. 

With a combined 40 years of experience training in a variety of disciplines, we understand the passion and dedication it takes to train in the martial arts. Our goal is to bring the same level of energy to our art that others put into their training. Shinbudo products were born from a desire to create tools that were physical representations of that energy. We wanted there to be some “life” to them. 
— Dennis King
As martial artists, it is an incredible honor for our products to be a small part of other martial artists’ journey.  As we continue to train, we also continue to improve our craft. Our intention is that each piece that leaves our shop is made at the best of our ability, and will hopefully find its way to its intended owner. 
— Ethan Hubler

Now these guys know their way around the woods! They have made hundreds of training tools over the years, tested all types of different woods, and really have a solid feel for what works best. In this video, Dennis discusses the the pros & cons of some different types of woods, and goes over what to look for when making your selection:

We are incredibly honored that Ethan & Dennis donated 3 different BEAUTIFUL bokken to help raise money for our nonprofit, the Budo Youth Fund. They literally just arrived, so keep an eye out for when they are live in our store. In the meantime, here are some pictures:



As always, if you have any feedback, suggestions for new topics, or requests for new products, please don't hesitate to reach out!