{Thoughts on Shops} – Juani1 – Crocheting Plastic Bags & More

Juani1 is the wonderful plastic bag recycling shop of Juanita Rivas-Raymer of Los Angeles. Juanita is not only an artist- she also teaches prenatal and Hatha yoga and is a Birth Doula.

Juani1 Shop Banner

Juani1 Shop Banner

Her amazing  La Bolsa Chica includes some adorable crocheted fish and an octopus (recycled from plastic bags!), crocheted plastic shopping bags (recycled from plastic bags!) and some beautiful crocheted wearables.

Her banner is fun and adorable – I love that she has worked in a clear photo of her most popular item. I do think the banner should have her shop name Juani1 (or the shop should have the banner name if that is the business name)- it might be confusing for customers and hard for them to ever find us again if we use multiple names on our shop home page. I love her banner tagline – Your Trash is my Art, although if Juanita will be adding more crocheted wearables she may need to rethink this. Her shop title (super important for SEO – you can often rank very high on a Google search with the right words here) needs to reflect what she sells in the way that shoppers might be searching. For example maybe working in the words – recycled plastic bags if that is something she thinks her customer might be searching for. Her avatar is perfect – it is a friendly photo that works perfectly with her eco shop.

Juani1 Recycled Trash Bag Fish

Juani1 Recycled Trash Bag Fish

I think she can definitely make the crochet wearables work with the recycled crochet trash bags, but the visuals need to be more consistent and appealing. Before we talk about the visuals though, let’s take a look at the actual makings.

In previous posts I have talked about the challenges of building a brand with recycled or repurposed materials and the importance of having a certain commonality within your shop (there are always exceptions to this, of course). It is sometimes easier to work with one material in different ways, for example the incredible zJayne who upcycles t-shirts into bags, sachets, wristlets and more or what I do with cork in Uncorked or the amazing work Manila Extract is doing with coffee bags and Hippie Kingdom’s beautiful paper jewelry. 

It can also be easier to build a unified brand using various repurposed materials to make the same things – for example recycling different materials and things into handbags.

With Juanita’s shop we see another way a brand can be built and that is with technique – in this case crochet.

Juani1 has 10 items for sale in her shop, so this is actually a perfect time for her to think about some other ways to build up her shop with crocheted goods (or if she wants to focus exclusively on crocheted plastic bags to head more exclusively in that direction). The advantage to being small is being able to change things easily even our direction. I would definitely recommend getting alot more items for sale into the shop (this is a process, it doesn’t have to happen overnight) after really giving some thought about where she wants to go with her makings and her branding.

There is almost no way to have consistent sales with such a small grouping of makings – it would be like a store in the mall being almost empty and surrounded by stores packed with goods for sale – it just doesn’t work. Now this isn’t to say that you can’t have a small shop with a few of your makings as a hobby and you absolutely can, but consistent sales will require more of a commitment and commonality with the offerings and it is totally up to Juanita, who has alot of other things going on, if she has the time to create more work for sale.

I would look to get 3 full pages of makings.

Juani1 Upcycled Totebag

Juani1 Upcycled Totebag

I would also look to give the decorative items like the fish a little more usefulness. Maybe in a little bit larger size this fish could hang in a beach house as a plastic bag storer – any time we can make an item with great form have great function, too (especially in the current economy where customers are predisposed to spending less) – we will definitely improve our sales. I don’t think it always works to simply list the ways an item can be used (although that helps) – I would show it in use and focus on one of the functions with the marketing. The fish and octopus also could be marketed as DIY kits for crocheters who supply their own bags complete with instructions and googly eyes if Juanita wanted to head in that direction – kits and patterns are very popular on Etsy. 

Once Juanita has some more makings I would focus back on her visuals and look to create more consistent, visual aesthetic. You definitely want to use all 5 photos in a  listing (it is part of what we pay for) and show the items in use. An upcycled bag that due to the very nature (and color) of its components might look a little blah sitting all by itself would really pop being carried by someone wearing colorful clothing – it could really highlight how a neutral colored bag can work to a customer’s advantage by being much more functional with their wardrobe . We always want to focus on and play up our most positive features and all our features in a positive way. 

Some other edits might include – adding more information to the shop announcement, breaking up the long paragraph in the shop profile into smaller paragraphs that are more reader friendly and adding a linkback to her shop’s homepage, get international shipping prices into each listing (over 25% of my sales are international, so we want to make things as easy as possible for the international shopper – I know some people are afraid things will get lost and yes, sometimes – but very, very seldom – they do get lost, but I think we need to be fearless about this!).

Etsy has partnered with ATS to make international shipping easier and trackable – I haven’t used this yet, but have heard some good things. I would also relook at the shipping price on the fish and see if there is a way to reduce that one, have enough featured items so something will pop in when something featured sells and maybe work in some lower price point, less labor intensive items like the hairpins, hatpins in the sold items and never be afraid to have a couple high priced items- there are shoppers out there who only purchase higher priced work.

Add more information to each listing. Think like a customer- what do they need to know? There is a great article on writing item descriptions that answer your buyers questions from sparklerama  HERE. The item description may be the only thing your potential customer ever reads, so adding information about you from your shop profile, etc can really personalize the experience – give those fish names and tell the story behind each piece! A huge advantage we have as small makers is our ability to create a true shopping experience (rather than just a sale) for our customer!

A great blog post about being true to yourself and your branding evolving from that, by Jill from for strange women,  that you might want to read if you haven’t seen it yet is HERE – I loved it.

I hope Jauni1 finds some information here helpful that she can use to grow her beautiful shop!

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  1. Hi everyone, thanks for reviewing my shop. I will take those things into consideration. I am in the process of making more sea creatures for a few shows that I will be participating in. Sometimes it’s hard for me to crank out so much stuff without feeling like a one woman sweatshop. Although I will always make stuff because it makes me happy to share with people my passion. This group definitely inspires me. Take care, Juanita

  2. Thanks Heather- yes, those sea creatures of Juanita’s are so cool and clever!

  3. Great review of a great shop. I would love to see more of the sea creatures and I love the blue background of the photos. Thanks for the sparklerama article. Great tips!