As a freelancer, I sometimes write stories for hire that “fit” the vibe here at RW&G. This month I’ve got a piece in a publication by the Boerne Star about a Central Texas mom who makes all kinds of nifty bags out of recycled materials. It’s a perfect story for Earth Day 2014.
Liza Hunter Galvan has the sort of cheerful, bright-eyed, can-do personality that you’d expect of a budding entrepreneur. Yet the idea for her young business, GeeGee Bags, came not from her but from one of her children.
“My youngest daughter came up with the idea. She suggested making a bag out of an old snack wrapper.”
That was 2.5 years ago. Over time the idea has grown slowly with the help of Hunter Galvan’s family. The product line today ranges from small coin purses to large laptop bags.
“I made a few of the first bags, but I’m not the best seamstress. My mom is an incredible seamstress though so I took some materials with us home to New Zealand one summer, and she helped me develop a product that I could sell. Between three generations of women in my family, we came up with an assembly line production including design, preparation and production.”
Now each summer the women and girls partner up to make handmade bags.
“I take a big suitcase full of trash with me,” says Hunter Galvan with a laugh. “They stop me sometimes [in customs] because of all of the zippers.”
Hunter Galvan says that although she has a website she sells the bulk of the bags at fairs, First Friday art events in San Antonio, Fralo’s and The Point Park & Eats. She also markets her bags and accepts custom orders through her Facebook page. [San Antonio residents please note that Hunter Galvan's bags are now available at the Toy Zone at the new Dominion Ridge store in Leon Springs.]
“My kids are so active, it’s been hard over the last year to get the products out to stores,” says Hunter Galvan, adding that she’s interested in selling to area shopkeepers. “I think my product appeals to people who want something different, a unique gift . . . . What I’d really like do right now is to partner with a group for a fundraiser. I just haven’t found the right group yet. I’m looking to find a group—a school, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts—that I could work with to help sell more of the bags.”
Family and friends alike have helped contribute to the task of collecting snack packaging.
“My kids collect bags from their friends. I’m a runner, so I pick up stuff on the roadside all the time. I’ve even picked up bags at national parks. If I see a bag and think it would look nice—I have a good eye for design, then I can’t stop myself!”
Describing herself as “a little bit shameless” about collecting trash to make into treasure, Hunter Galvan says that she regularly sends empty Ziplocs out with her kids to parties.
“When we have parties and have a lot of friends over, I make a point to buy bags with the coolest packaging,” she says. “It’s almost an obsession.”
Hunter Galvan goes the extra mile to ensure that most other materials in her products are recycled or repurposed. “Only the zippers are new in most of the bags.”
The commitment to eco-friendly living extends beyond her micro-enterprise. At home, Hunter Galvan says, she and her family compost and recycle heavily. “It’s hard for us to throw things out. We have a garden and chickens. While we don’t have a full-on homestead, we do try to reduce our carbon footprint. That’s just the way we want to live.”