Q&A with Raaja Nemani, CEO of Bucketfeet

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By Butterboom Writers  /  December 9, 2016

Raaja Nemani is the co-founder and CEO of Bucketfeet. Founded in 2011, Bucketfeet is a footwear company that collaborates with a global community of artists from all over the world to design limited-edition shoes with the goal of sparking meaningful conversations and bring the world closer. Bucketfeet is redefining the footwear market by creating an extensive artist network and enabling artists to produce their original designed footwear products and bringing it to market.

Prior to starting Bucketfeet, Nemani was in finance with investment banking at UBS Investment Bank and private equity firm, Prairie Capital. After four years in the finance industry, Nemani left the industry and went backpacking around the world for over a year. During the trip he connected with an artist he met on his trip and started Bucketfeet. Today he is based in Chicago and have raised up to 20 million in investment for Bucketfeet and is currently expanding market share for Bucketfeet with both artists and customers.

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Where do you live now and love about your city? 
I live in Chicago, third largest city in the US. I have lived in Chicago for 12 years and even though have been thinking to leave for a bigger city have remained in this city. I love that the people are nice, the city is clean and so easy to get around. 

What do you think your experience in banking contributed to your start-up?
We worked really long hours (100 hours week) at the bank and so I was use to hard work. I think its the work ethics that enable me to endure the long hours and tough times that one needs to put in at a start-up. We were bootstrapping for 2 years before raising any money. Also my time spent looking at so many companies helped me to see what it takes to build a successful business, the patterns and also having seen so many pitches, the experience certainly helped me with fund raising for Bucketfeet, to talk the talk.

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What’s a typical day like for you? 
I have just become a new dad, so I’m up at 5.30am and I take my baby for a walk in the morning. I come back home earlier around 5.30pm to spend more time with her. I read to her every night.

 I get to the office around 8am and am currently spending my time hiring and building my team. I will be in meetings listening to and solving problems. I am also looking at shortening the supply chain time in getting the product made and to customer so looking and vetting suppliers. 

What’s important to Bucketfeet? 
Our priority right now is to expand our artist network so we can create more shoes, expand our customer base and spark more conversations and increase more connections with more people.

What are you currently doing to grow Bucketfeet? 
We have 3 retail studios, so customers have touchpoint with our shoes. We do PR, and online advertising, social media.

Photo Source: Business of Design Week - BODW 2016

Photo Source: Business of Design Week – BODW 2016

What are the top qualities you look for when hiring for Bucketfeet besides technical skills?
I look for people who is firstly passionate about what we do, share the same values as we do and can think in different ways. If you find something you love, you’ll want to work everyday of your life.  

Best advise you ever got?
It would be similar to Jeff Bezos’ mother’s advise to him- Its harder to be kind than clever resonates with me most as its close to the one my mother gave me – I don’t care what you do, just be a nice person.  It fits with the ethos of the company, to do good. With Bucketfeet, we are about connecting and build good will with others.

Difference I want to make in the world
Make it possible for people from different backgrounds to have a conversation, breakdown barriers, let people know that we have a lot more in common than differences, I believe this will solve a lot of problems in the world.

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