Important Business Lessons from Fabric Fruit Sculptures

Fabric Fruit Sculptures

Running a business can be incredibly complicated. But the basic concept is often simple. You need to create a product that people want, offer it at a decent price, and make it readily available.

Stephen Key, co-founder of InventRight, learned all of these business lessons while selling soft sculptures at art fairs and on street corners. While not the most common selling method for modern businesses, the approach he learned can be applied to almost any market.

Key’s journey with selling began shortly after he studied sculpture in college. He got the idea to make and market soft sculptures of funny little characters made from nylon, stuffing and thread.

But his first craft fair didn’t go so well. He didn’t sell any of his unique creations. He did, however, take a look around to see what was selling. He noticed that the customers at the fair were mostly women. And he saw that a lot of the vendors selling things like fruits and vegetables were doing very well.

So Key re-thought his strategy. And next time, when it came to his subject matter, he made sculptures of different fruits and vegetables instead. The sculptures still had little faces like Key’s original characters. But making them into fruits and vegetables made them more whimsical and perfect for kitchen decorations.

When he brought the new group of sculptures to the next fair, he sold out. Key wrote in a post for Entrepreneur:

“So what did I learn? Know your audience. Create something they desire. Test it quickly to see if it sells. And, by all means, have fun doing it.”

Since then, Key’s gone onto various other business ventures. But those basic lessons came from his early days of selling handmade sculptures at fairs. Knowing your audience and creating a product they’ll love are always applicable, no matter what market you happen to be in.

Keys added:

“You can make it as complicated as you want, but if you’ve made something, brought it to market, and someone has paid you for it, you’ve completed the circle. You’ve done what every major business does.”

Light Bulb Photo via Shutterstock


Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends, covering entrepreneur profiles, interviews, feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. When she’s not writing she can be found exploring all that her home state of Michigan has to offer.

2 Reactions
  1. At least,. he did not give up. One failure is not enough to stop him in his tracks and he keeps on pushing until he succeeds.