Bucketfeet is a footwear company that collaborates with a global community of artists to design limited-edition shoes with the goal of sparking meaningful conversations to create a brighter world. With a network of 40,000 artists from more than 120 countries, Bucketfeet empowers artists to share their stories and perspectives using the universal language of art and the shoe as their canvas.
Artists are paid upfront and earn royalties for their custom designs, which are manufactured and sold exclusively by Bucketfeet. Through a responsive commerce model, the company is disrupting traditional manufacturing cycles and redefining the $300B footwear industry, letting the Bucketfeet community select styles they’d like to purchase and wear to help inform demand. Bucketfeet was founded in 2011 by Raaja Nemani and Aaron Firestein and is headquartered in Chicago. Bucketfeet has retail studio locations in Chicago and Washington, D.C. and has been sold in more than 15 countries
When and where was your light bulb moment when you knew that Bucketfeet is really something you wanted to pursue?
The very first pair of shoes I ever customized (way back in 2007) got a great response. I remember posting a photo to Facebook and having people tell me they wanted to buy a pair. I thought, hmmm, maybe I can make a little extra cash on the side.
What are your vision/goals for Bucketfeet and has it changed since 2011?
Nothing has really changed in terms of a vision but our actions have definitely evolved. We are the only company to focus exclusively on collaborations with artists as it pertains to footwear. We’ve really tried to make a statement and I think we’re doing so.
How are the artist chosen? Do you seek them out or do artist send in their material? Follow up – Has Bucketfeet ever held or will ever hold an artist competition for fans to vote on who gets to design a Bucketfeet shoe based on submission by artist?
We seek out artists a lot of the time but we get submissions too. We are actually thinking about doing a pretty wide-scale artist contest so be on the lookout for that!
I see you yourself started designing some custom shoes in college do you still design any of the current Bucketfeet shoes now or do you see doing that in the future?
I almost always have some sort of design in each line, although I do really try to let the other artists get the limelight. I’m happy sitting in the background and let their work shine!
On a different note how did you get the nickname Bucket?
Silly nickname – no real story unfortunately. I hated it but grew so used to it that I incorporated it into the name!
Do you think social business and entrepreneurship can change the world of commerce and bring more stability and peace around the world and here in the U.S.?
We all hope so! It’d be great if more people had that sort of mindset, that’s for sure.
I know that Bucketfeet is a young company, but to this point what is Bucketfeet’s greatest achievement?
I think raising money and hiring a team has been the single most impressive accomplishment so far. It’s amazing what having more people on board can do!
How often are new sneakers created? Is there a set time span on when an artist is found to the release of the new shoe?
We definitely try to have a new set of shoes ready every 4 months or so. At least from a design perspective. We always want to bring out new stuff!
Finally, what has been the greatest obstacle in building the Bucketfeet brand has it been more difficult than you thought it would be?
Money is always the biggest concern at the very beginning. It’s very expensive starting a business and even more expensive starting a shoe business (shoes are NOT cheap to produce). We overcame that initial bumpy ride and have put together a plan. You always learn from trials and tribulations. We’re in a great spot right now.
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Founder of Causeartist + Social Entrepreneur + Partner at Charity Charge.