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BucketFeet, a Threadless for Shoes, Raises $7.5 Million to Scale Its Business

The young brand, which sells through retailers like Nordstrom and Bloomingdale's, is on the up and up.
Photo: Jana Cruder/BucketFeet

Photo: Jana Cruder/BucketFeet

Despite its silly name, the Chicago-based shoe startup BucketFeet has raised a decidedly un-silly amount of money from investors: $7.5 million, which brings its total backing to $13.3 million.

You can think of BucketFeet as something of a Threadless for printed sneakers that cost between $68 and $94. It operates a network of roughly 12,000 artists and everyday people, who can submit their designs for consideration. The best ones, as chosen by the BucketFeet team, get printed on plain canvas shoes in limited edition runs. Of course, not everyone's work makes it through the selection funnel; at this point, the work of about 200 artists has gone on to adorn the shoes.

Among BucketFeet's investors are Jumpstart Ventures, former Crate & Barrel CEO Gordon Segal, Bonobos co-founder Andy Dunn and Yunsan, one of the startup's international distributors. 

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After four years in business, the brand sells through its e-commerce site, in its own stores, through 13 international distributors (it's big in Japan and Korea) and to wholesale clients Stateside, a respectable roster that includes Nordstrom, Bloomingdale's and Lord & Taylor. 

"We have a really big infrastructure built to be a global brand," says co-founder and CEO Raaja Nemani, who worked in private equity prior to starting the company. "We've done a lot of those hard things up front."

With this infusion of cash, BucketFeet is hiring, redesigning its site, scaling its inventory and opening more brick-and-mortar stores. Oh, and socks! It's launching a range of socks.

Wholesale currently represents a little over 10 percent of the business, while international contributes 50 percent and direct (including e-commerce and company-owned storefronts) adds the last 40 percent. While Nemani says the company isn't "bleeding money," it hasn't quite reached profitability yet.

 Maybe that's a milestone it will pass in 2015.