Do you remember learning about fixed costs and variable costs in high school economics? Fixed Costs (FC) + Variable Costs (VC) = Total Cost (TC)
In short, the total cost of a project is comprised of fixed costs that are independent of output and variable costs that vary with output.
Why the lesson in economics? The reason I bring this up is to help explain certain aspects of promotional products that people sometimes find unfavorable. Chiefly, order minimums and set up charges.
We often have clients request a small number of an item, only to be discouraged by a large minimum. Minimums are in place to protect the manufacturer's profitability. If they incur X amount of start up costs to burn a screen or create a die, set up the machine and prepare the order, they have to recoup that cost in some way, or it makes no sense for them to take on the project.
Does that mean you have to scrap the idea when you had your heart set on branded reusable bags for a 50 person event? Absolutely not.
It might just mean you have to think creatively and use the same item on multiple occasions.
Here's a creative example from client Victory Fund. At a brunch event in San Diego, they used branded Flexi Vases to hold flowers as a centerpiece for each table. Flexi Vases are an inexpensive item, so you can't just run 25 of them for each of your 25 tables. No, a larger order was placed, and the extras were either stored for future brunches or gifted to guests.
Another good example is paper napkins. Instead of ordering the minimum for a small event, think ahead to your needs throughout the year. Place one large order at the start of the year, and reduce your inventory through events, cocktail hours, and breakfast or lunch sales meetings with clients.