Raaja Nemani is the CEO and co-founder (along with Aaron Firestein) of Bucketfeet, an American online retailer specialising in artist-designed footwear.

The company connects people through art by collaborating with emerging artists from around the world to design each shoe.

Nemani and Firestein met while volunteering in Argentina. The two became friends, and upon Raaja’s departure from Buenos Aires, Aaron (nicknamed “Bucket”) sold him a pair of shoes on which he had drawn an artistic design.

Raaja continued his year-long journey and realised the shoes were an easy conversation starter; saying that people from all over the world would comment on their unique design and that several friendships were sparked from these initial conversations.

After Nemani had completed his travels, he sent Firestein a Facebook message asking if he would be willing to move to Chicago and create a business around the idea of artist-designed trainers. Firestein agreed, and the two moved to Chicago in 2010 and officially launched the business in 2011.

Key achievements

  • Nemani helped steer a company that connects to a community of 14,000 artists from over 100 countries
  • Started a successful business through a Facebook message
  • Went from associate to business entrepreneur and CEO in 10 months

Lessons for your store

1. Follow your true interests – even though Nemani has a successful career in Finance, it was starting Bucketfeet that really motivated him

2. Taking breaks makes you more productive – Nemani went travelling for a year to clear his head

3. Make the first move – it was Nemani that facebooked Firestein and proposed the start-up of Bucketfeet.