Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Craft Show {Inventory Planning}

First things first - Inventory Planning.  The idea to try out a craft show needled its way into my mind about this time last year.  I was creating projects for Stitch Magazine that I had absolutely no use for.  Between then and now I've also taught two online classes, making a ton of projects each time, many of which also have no homes.  In a sense these projects are already "paid for", so if I were to sell their physical selves at a craft show it would just be icing on the cake.  That and it would clear out my cupboard, while releasing me to feel "ok" about making things for no one in particular, a frame of mind I'd really like to adopt.

You know what, this reminds me that I haven't pointed out in awhile that Stitched in Color is my business.  In case you're new to this space or kind of glossed over that fact, I'll just make sure you know that this is a business, not a hobby for me.  I feel incredibly blessed to be doing something I love, my art! as a job.  But it is a job - I put in at least 40 hours a week (ha!) and make most decisions factoring in the business perspective.

That said, I really think I'm doing the craft show mainly for fun.  I may sell items that are already "paid for", but I'll also be investing lots of time, money for booth design and money for new product materials.  If the experience is actually fun (mostly) and I do sale enough to make it worthwhile, I'll do it again.  But, that's a big IF!

Baby quilts for craft show

Ok, so inventory.  Let's talk about what I already had sitting in my cupboard at the time I was considering doing the Indie Craft Parade:

*4 baby quilts (since then, I've made another one - a Little Fling)
*3 metal clasp coin purses
*1 rug
*1 pillow cover
*2 wall hangings
*1 set of bibs and some pacifier clips
*1 set of coasters (since then, I've made another set)
*1 adorable girls top that Aria hated a long time ago
*1 potholder (like literally, ONE. I don't think you can sell 1 potholder?)
*1 covered journal (since then I've made 3 more)

So, I had 15 items and I've already made 7 more.   The having of 15 items is what really pushed me into this.  I hate seeing things I've made sitting in a dark cupboard.  Maybe a craft show will be a way of giving them away while making a leetle extra money and developing my brand?

Misc. looking for homes

Inventory Planning goes like this - what do I want to make, what to people actually want to buy and what can I price high enough to make my time worthwhile?  The right items will satisfy all criteria.  Also, it's important to have more low-priced smaller items than pricey baby quilts.  Although I have a wide range of random goods already made, nicely displaying randomness is far from easy.  My best bet is to develop a small list of inventory categories that I feel are winners so that I can design a booth to showcase them.  The misc. already made items that I don't decide to run with will just have to find a random space on the table!

Here are the inventory categories I've decided to focus on:

*Quilts
*Picnic Blankets
*Covered Journals
*iPad Sleeves
*Coasters
*Stretched wall art

Quilts:  Although the baby quilts are what I had most of going in, I don't expect them to be a very marketable inventory category.  They're expensive and people don't usually understand why.  Plus, they're only for babies.  Still, this is something I absolutely love making!  I already had 2 girl quilts and 2 gender neutral quilts.  I decided to make 2 boy quilts and figure out a way to display them.  I'm taking a chance with this category, but it's probably top of my list of things I'd like to have license to make as desired all year long.

Picnic Blankets:  These blankets are more "useful" than my baby quilts and lower priced.  I feel that adding this category may help me market the baby quilts by reinforcing the quilt aesthetic.  To keep the cost down, I've chosen a quick design that showcases the fabrics.  I'm counting on the fabrics to sale themselves!  I hope to make 4-5 picnic blankets like the one I shared yesterday.

Covered journals for craft show

Covered Journals:  I'm a sucker for making these.  The experience is therapeutic!  I prefer to make them from scraps, which keeps materials cost low.  Since they aren't time-intensive, I can keep the sales price low as well.  I think this is likely to be a strong selling category so I'll make more journals than anything else - I'm planning to have 20. 

iPad Sleeves:  Here's where I feel out of my element.  I haven't made these before, and I don't even have an iPad.  However, I believe that the young, artsy crowd shopping at this particular show is likely to own an iPad.  And, they probably wouldn't be shy about paying for a cool cover.  I'm thinking to make 6 iPad sleeves, but this inventory category is low on my priority list.

Coasters: I believe in coasters.  I use them and I enjoy giving them as gifts.  I hope that others will feel the same way!  It's great to have a very giftable inventory category, so here it is.  I'll make sets of 4 coasters probably in a very simple design.  Perhaps 8 coaster sets would be adequate?

Stretched Wall Art: This category is much like a mini-quilt but in a format that's more recognizable as wall decor to the general public.  I enjoy making these very much.   They take little fabric, but lots of thought and sometimes lots of time.  Fortunately, people expect to pay good money for something they'd hang on a wall. I wonder if this could be a lucrative category.  I'm thinking to have 10 or more pieces.

And that's enough!  Really, when you add this up I'm planning to make about 50 items between now and September 7th.  Limiting myself to 6 inventory categories also helps me have fewer challenges with booth design.  I do wonder if this is enough inventory for a 3-day event with 5000 attendees (my word!), but if I run out that's not the worst problem I could have.

My next step was to take out the calendar and figure out how many items (and which) I should make each week to keep me on schedule.  I mixed up easy and more time-consuming items giving myself about 6 to make each week.  Monday I made a set of coasters and a journal cover.  Tuesday I made a 16" x 20" wall art.  This week I should make one more set of coasters, another journal cover and finish up a quilt for a friend (not for the show).  Oh, and I also have stuff still in the works with Handstitched Class.  I'm definitely not forgetting that!

Oodalolly scrap coasters

Here's the set of coasters I made on Monday.  I pulled out some abandoned patchwork and added the linen strip to bring the squares to size.  It was supposed to be a quick project, but I actually had a terrible time with many little things and found myself muttering, "I didn't even want these anyways!"  So, yes, it was my first "grumpy craft show lady" moment.  I'll be sure to report on how that part progresses!

57 comments:

  1. Not to add to your already focused plate.. But Pillow cases? They wouldn't take much time or fabric and they would be a welcome addition to someone's house without breaking their budget. My MIL makes them for us sometimes when she makes us a quilt. She uses the extra fabric so it matches our quilt. But I've made some for an uncle who likes tractors and a kid who loves puppies. (tractor and puppy themed, of course.)

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  2. Thanks for sharing your journey, interesting read. And I hope you do really well at your show.

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  3. Sounds like a good set- you are wise about your choices I think! Can you tell us more about the stretched wall art? Would love to see some...perhaps I will search earlier posts!

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    1. Here's one I made last fall for my kitchen: http://www.stitchedincolor.com/2011/10/celebrate-color-whimsy-on-my-wall.html

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    2. Oh thank you! I've been thinking about doing this and had a long discussion about it with the art shop in town but they weren't sure about the whole thing (stretching pieced fabric) and I was very reticent to hand over my goods (it incl. an embroidery by my grandmother!). Now I see I can do it myself- phew!

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  4. I think your covered journals are super and if you had the time you could probably make even more than 20 of them. From what I've read, lower priced items sell faster. Not that you need more, but what about lanyards and key fobs? Easy and an easy sale too.

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    1. Even though I think that's a good idea, I think it would be better to make more of my current categories than keep adding more options. From a merchandising stand point, simple can be better!

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  5. I'm enjoying reading about this craft show journey of yours - in fact, I love your blog and read it everyday!
    I have an iPad and I think it would be wise to have more than the six you're planning on. You're right they will appeal to many of the people that frequent craft shows. You could always sell the leftovers .

    Thanks for posting the stretched wall art :)

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  6. You're such a good planner! My sister lives in Greenville and loves the Indie Craft Parade -- I sent her your previous post and told her to be sure to look for you there this year. I was going to ask if you'd consider posting a basic tutorial for your journal covers, but I guess if you're going to sell them it wouldn't be a good business decision to give away your secrets!

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  7. This was such an interesting post- it never occurred to me quite how much thought goes into (and how many aspects there are to consider) preparing for such an event, particularly the considerations for a sensible inventory, while balancing out art and business for a successful whole. Thank you for the inspiration and I wish you ginormous queues for your craft show booth. Wish I could be there:)

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  8. Your new coasters are super awesome! I'm sorry they made you grumpy. Hopefully, that's the last frustrating thing about the process!

    I think your categories sound great for your first show, and I really hope it's a successful venture for you! And I do wish I could come keep you company, friend!

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  9. I love the journal covers! I'm interested to hear of your successes. When I make quilted coasters I like to add a few whole cloves in with the batting which smells lovely when you place a warm mug on them. I made some for a friend several years back. She still uses them and they still have their fragrance.

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  10. It's so fun to hear your organizational thoughts behind all this... probably because that's the kind of thing I'm totally bad at! But you are making me want to apply for the big indie show we have here in November. Hmmmmm.

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  11. Love your openness about this being a business. Good luck on the show and WOW that is a lot of projects to complete by September :) - I look forward to seeing them!

    -Q

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  12. I bet the Shashiko coasters would sell very well. Maybe you think they take too long to make, but now that I'm on my 5th one and getting the hang of it, I bet you do them a whole lot quicker.
    BTW...I'm SO glad you put that technique into the Handstitched Class. I'll be doing more of it.

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  13. Love the journals...and i think you should consider making a few more iPad sleeves? How about some mug rugs along with the coasters? Coasters you have to make at least four, but mug rugs only require one! :)

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  14. Sounds like a plan! Do you have a local fair that you can check out before then to see what things sell and general prices for comparison?

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    1. Well, I've been to this show before, so I feel like I have a frame of reference.

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  15. I did a craft show in Florida last year at the beginning of November. It averages 60,000 people in one day. I planned much the same as you're planning now. I knew that lower cost items would sell the best, so I focused on pillow covers and kitchen sets [hot pads and aprons, or hot pads and coasters that were wrapped with a cookie cutter to be used as gifts] and those items didn't sell very well. In fact, I only sold 2 pillow covers, 1 set of coasters, and 3 hotpads. I priced my items without factoring a wage for time spent making them, just slightly more than material cost, so they weren't expensive at all. I certainly learned a lot about what a non-quilter/crafter would want to buy, and if I decide to do the show again this year I know that I would have a completely different approach.
    I hope it goes well for you!

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    1. mary/Sy Lake QuiltsJuly 14, 2012 at 10:57 AM

      what wold the 'completely different approach' be? what DID sell?

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  16. Just from my own show experiences: people love buying inexpensive and cute things for babies and small children. Many times people will buy things for their kids even if they won't buy anything for themselves. You might consider adding bibs to your inventory if it's a time and cost effective project.

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    1. That is such a good point - about folks enjoying buying for their kids. I'll see if I can think up some school-ish or kid products!

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  17. Love the coasters. I've done many craft shows. 50 items for a three day show seems too low. I suggest you consider putting your extras in a consignment store. Probably would be less time consuming and cost you less. Booth fees, displays, etc. take a lot of time. I look forward to reading about whatever you choose to do.

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  18. Your journal covers are great. That is an item I would be willing to spend money on at a craft show.

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  19. Great looking inventory there! Over 3 days though you may stand to sell out of the smaller things within day 1. Did you have to pay for the 3 days or can you leave at any time? =D

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    1. I have to be there all 3 days and it was a one-size-fits-all price. So, yes, it would be good if I could make more..

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  20. Amber, one at One Shabby Chick, participates in Craft Fairs and has had blog postings with what she finds sells & not. She even guest posted for someone else recently (don't remember who, sorry) about things she's learned about it. Maybe you might want to check out her blog.

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    1. Thanks I found it at "I have to say" and it was helpful!

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  21. If you're going to do iPad sleeves would you consider doing Kindle/Nook sleeves too? They might take a little less fabric and then you'd have a variety of tablet covers.

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  22. Rachel i think this is a great idea and I know how much work you put into your business! I have been really confused about selling craft for a long time. My friend and I made a ton of beautiful childrens clothing (one off pieces) that we sold at home as an open house idea which was great. We took the rest to a local fair and I was so disappointed by the attitude of people ("I'll give you 5 dollars for it" What!!!). We never did it again! You are right to concentrate on small items that don't take too long to make and that people can impulse buy rather cheaply. A good friend told me that if you can make money from your craft then you are doing very well. So concentrate on your business and do this for fun and get your name and product out there. if I could go I would buy something because I love your work and would love to have something made by you! Look forward to hearing more!

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    1. Thanks, Rebecca. I never thought of people bartering with me about price at the fair. Good to think ahead about that so that my head doesn't start spinning!

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  23. I think you're planning is great, I'm worried about your stock levels for 3 days. I recently did a destash/craft supplies/bric-a-brac market. I priced my fabrics reasonably but not a steal (much cheaper than local RRP) - I found there were two shoppers, those that paid happily and those that only wanted an absolute bargain. I discounted a little here and there where I thought it was fair but I also knew my product was quality (designer quilting fabric) and I still sold about 70%. I probably won't sell at that market again since there is another destash market purely for fabric.

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  24. For quilt display - an old wooden stepladder works good. You can even paint it. Always have plenty of small bills and change in your cash box. I would not take checks. Ive had too many bounce. And sign up for one of those credit card readers if you have an iphone or other smart phones. It is a tiny percentage per transaction and goies right into your account. Good luck.

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  25. I wish you tons of good luck! It would be nice to know what it the hot item before you go but I can tell you from experience that every show is different. I think you are SMART to limit the number of categories you sell. Too many distractions are just that - distractions. I think I read that someone suggested consignment - I would certainly try to come up with Plan B for any leftovers or to plan for in the future. School bazaars, etc. Again, good good good luck!

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  26. Oh wow! I wish I could attend that craft mess and swoon over your display. It sounds like it's going to be a fascinating booth :)

    Well I wish you good luck anyway and I'm sure someone else will do it all for me! ;)

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  27. If you decide to make more small ticket items, here's a suggestion - I saw a Vera Bradley luggage tag at the airport the other day, and realized I could easily make a "quilt-y" one that would be just as distinctive, using some of my favorite fabrics! And I second the idea of Kindle/Nook covers - they're pretty prevalent too, and the women who frequent craft shows are usually avid readers.

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  28. Thanks for sharing your thinking. It's great to read about how you're going about this. Best of luck getting enough inventory. I agree that your items are lovely and any would be a treasure to own!

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  29. I second the comment above to think more about selling yourself/business/teaching and make sure you have some business cards, a photo display or brochures, and some articles that are really special. Even if it's something more time consuming to show off and let them know you'll take commissions. For example do some of the journal covers in your bottled rainbows style and say that larger items (quilts) can be ordered. Good luck!

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  30. Sounds like you will have a nice selection! I hope it goes well for you!! Keep us posted :)

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  31. We have a large art show here, and lots of the artists have a box of "seconds" that they sell for a low price - it could be cute to have a box of extra quilt blocks for sale, if you have some already on hand. Then you have an excuse to give people a bag with your card advertising your commission work and make a little money too.

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  32. The quilt angle could be to plant the idea of a baby quilt and then offering to make a custom one for their intended child. I'm doing a farmer's market booth where I can't sell things but I can market my services. I plan on displaying child sized quilts real sweetly, a stack of business cards and a promise to have quilts finished in time for Christmas.
    Good Luck Rachel and thanks for sharing this with us.

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  33. the coasters are awesome, rachel! i love them!

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    1. Haha, thanks! Someone better buy those. Geez.

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  34. I signed up for a craft/trunk show on Aug. 11, so now I'm busy creating my inventory list. I love the idea of the fabric covered journals. That would be great with back to school time. Just curious, how much did you price them? Just kinda wanting to get a ballpark range. Thanks! :-)

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    1. Will be detailing pricing in a later post, but somewhere in the lower 20's.

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  35. Since I've read quite a few comments suggesting more low-price items are the way to go, I thought I'd share the opposite view.
    I used to work for a candle company that sold mainly through art & craft fairs in the Midwest. These were large pillar candles that sold for $20 each. Lots of people who shopped at the craft fairs didn't want to pay that much-they expected us to sell them for $5.
    Those people were not our target customers. We didn't worry when they walked away, because we were usually busy talking to the people who were interested in our processes and our philosophies. Those were the customers who not only paid $20 a candle, they would buy a dozen at a time.
    My point with this story is, the high-ticket items (one-of-a-kind baby quilts, stretched wall art) can and will bring sales. They just require more customer interaction (aka "selling").

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  36. About the baby blankets...I think that could go either way. People like to buy things for baby's and an original handmade baby quilt makes an excellent baby shower gift. I think that could go either way.
    I think your journals will go like hot cakes, as well as the picnic blankets. Even displaying pics of kids picnicing on the bright blanket might help.
    ipad covers could be hit and miss. I see people making them but as an ipad owner and knowing other people with one I don't know anyone with a handmade ipad cover or sleeve. The same with iphones.
    When you get to booth design try to design up. Layers of wooden boxes on tables, or a backdrop with your stuff hanging from it. Put your brightest most interesting thing by the entry way of the booth to try and bring people in. That was the advice I was given.
    Good luck! I'm loving reading about this new adventure.

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    1. and just read a comment I agree with...ALWAYS have busniess cards! Even a flyers would be good. Advertising your blog, your classes, and even your etsy store.

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    2. Yes, definitely! I am making new business cards for this event that will also be used as tags that promote the blog, classes, etc.

      I like the way you put your "design up" concept too!

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  37. I see many 30 somethings who are having their first baby/grandbaby for the grandparents, and they are spending lots on the kids. I would add the bibs since you can't have too many. I would not do clothes, they are handed down even in this group. The quilts grow with the child and are used for years as cuddle quilts. Some of the other commenters are so right. When I had a crafts store, the more expensive items sold first and I made more from them. Always include your fair wages in what you do. The covers for electronics, not so sure. Do they need special features like a stand up frame?

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  38. Lots of good advice already & I will add my two cents. I've done gift shows as a vendor of commercially made goods, and helped my sister at a show with her hand made jewelry. Business cards for sure - if you can, add some fabric embellishment to them since you are all about fabric, and that will make them stand out. Also consider making a banner with Stitched in Color on it, you may be able to hang it above head height or across the front of your table at the very least. Look for a room divider / screen to use to give height to your display - you want to be sure that people walking by can see some of your goods over the bodies of the people already at your booth. Depending on the space available, you can even use two old wooden ladders facing each other and put shelves across the steps for additional room. Consider packaging the coasters very specially & use signage to suggest they make great gifts. People need to be reminded of these things. For kid friendly-gift items you might consider crayon rolls, as they can also be used for makeup brushes, art brushes, knitting & crochet needles, depending on your fabric choice. Gift show prep is very exciting! I hope you'll share more as you get ready.

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  39. Love that you are documenting this here. I'm not in a position to make anything in quantity or sell anything (nor do I really have the desire at the present moment), but I do enjoy reading the process. I hope that you do fabulous and sell out!

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  40. mary/Sy Lake QuiltsJuly 14, 2012 at 9:42 AM

    I'm a little late here, but i am so glad you are posting on this subject. I just signed up to do my first craft fair in late September. I have to get going! I had things at a consignment shop, but it didn't open this year, and i haven't found an alternate, so thought i'd try a fair. I am SO happy to see your post and also the suggestions people have made. I do a lot of place mats, and plan to have a couple baby quilts, coasters & mug rugs and maybe some zippered pouches. I have no experience, but considering the size of your fair and number of days, your inventory plans sound low to me, as others have said. I will be looking forward to a post about pricing. I don't know how craft fair pricing compares to consignment store pricing. While i hope to sell what i have, i really hope to generate customers for custom place mat sets. I was told by the people running the fair that i should include some christmas items-- have you thought of that? Seems early to me, but......

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  41. I love all of your articles about your craft show prep! I am preparing for a huge craft show and would really love some input. Would you suggest focusing on a few items or having a variety? I am kind of an ADD crafter. Sewing is my favorite but I dabble in just about everything and am not sure if (for example) I should put my focus on having 20 of one item or 4 each of 5 different kinds of items. Any feedback would be appreciated :)

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    1. Well, I personally think 20 of 3-4 categories is better than a wide variety. But, I'm no expert - this is my first show.

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    2. Thanks for your imput! Good luck!

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