A startup founded by a pair of backpackers -- selling canvas shoes featuring art from all over the world -- just raised $7.5 million

BucketFeet, a startup that sellscanvas shoes featuring designs by artists from all over the world, has raised a $US7.5 million Series A round, the company announced Wednesday.

VC firm Jumpstart Ventures and Gordon Segal, founder and former CEO of Crate & Barrel, participated in this round of funding.

Previously, the almost-four-year-old BucketFeet had raised $US5.9 million. Previous investors include Andy Dunn, the co-founder and CEO of Bonobos as well as Brian Spaly, CEO of Trunk Club and co-founder of Bonobos.

BucketFeet’s two American co-founders met six years ago while living in Buenos Aires. Raaja Nemani had quit his finance job in 2008 to backpack around the world, and he was tutoring children in Argentina. There he met Aaron Firestein, who had started his own company in college by decorating canvas shoes and selling them to his dormmates. He had gotten so successful that by the time he moved to Argentina, he was shipping his decorated duds around the world.

Nemani bought a pair of shoes from Firestein and wore them for the rest of his backpacking trip. They became a talking point every time he met someone new in his travels.

“When people asked me about the shoes, I found that I wasn’t talking about the brand because that didn’t really matter anymore. I was talking about the artist, Aaron, and his inspiration for design, why the colours were used, why the pattern was the way it was,” Nemani tells Business Insider. “I found that by having this real person and real story behind the shoe, it immediately created a connection, both between me and the person, and the person and Aaron.”

Later on, Nemani was living in the Middle East. He called up Firestein and asked if Firestein wanted to bring his shoe business to another level — Nemani wanted to make a company that would connect people through art. Both men later ended up moving to Chicago to start a company called BucketFeet.

“Art is one of those platforms that everyone can understand; it’s a universal language, and it can bring people together,” Nemani says. “Bucketfeet is inspired by our travels, the idea that we wanted to meet all these people, and the idea that people want to feel connected to something. Sometimes it’s hard to get that, but we thought, ‘What if we created a brand that could connect people through real products?'”

BucketFeet has a hand both in e-commerce and in brick-and-mortar stores. In addition to its existing storefronts in New York City and Chicago, the company says there will be at least six retail studios in 2015, including three international locations in Asia.

“We’re incredibly excited about this round of funding, which will allow us to continue to expand our artist network, our global reach, and our ability to develop products that go beyond traditional footwear,” Nemani says.

“Highlighting artists’ stories and experiences is absolutely paramount to us – because of this, we’re able to offer something that no other brand can provide.”

In the past two months, BucketFeet has more than doubled its full-time staff. The company sells its artsy sneakers in more than 20 foreign countries, which account for nearly 50 per cent of BucketFeet’s total sales.

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