By Cameron Kong
Aaron Firestein, the co-founder of Bucketfeet, joined the MSCLE students in Gregg Latterman’s NUvention Arts Entrepreneurship class last week.
The story of Bucketfeet began with the serendipitous meeting of two strangers traveling through Argentina. At their parting, Aaron drew on a pair of canvas shoes which Raaja Nemani, his later business partner, wore traveling across six continents. Raaja was amazed by the magic of the conversation starter- his new shoes, during his journey, and one year later he asked Aaron to co-found a brand committed to collaborating with artists and telling their stories, one product at a time.
Launched in 2011, the first batch of Bucketfeet shoes featured 7 styles, each with 2 color options. Aaron and his team learned the business along the way, for example, when it was decided to put all 14 shoes out at one time and the website was not updated for eight months. Now the business is finally starting to take off. Currently, Aaron has been working to get high-profile collaborations. With more branches opening this year, however, he reflected that he hasn’t been doing any art himself for over two years. Aaron promised that he would not give up the artistic creation during his entrepreneur career and would like to have his own art collection profile on Bucketfeet one day.
MSCLE students remained very interested in digital disruption, a major topic in class this year. Aaron talked about how advances in technology have allowed Bucketfeet to do business differently. New software makes it possible to simulate what new products would look like in real-time, post the pictures on Bucketfeet’s social platforms asking customers to vote, and then ultimately put the most popular into manufacture. The process would otherwise take much more time on a traditional cycle of design selection, sample production, photography of the samples, and then uploading the pictures online to test customer acceptance. Aaron called this “response commerce”, which has been extremely productive for the brand and reviews.
Bucketfeet is growing into a beloved brand today, especially among art fans here in Chicago. Aaron’s humbleness and authenticity inspire us, as the Bucketfeet shoes continue to connect people through arts and trigger conversations all over the world.