Credit: Isa Giallorenzo

You know that special item that makes strangers approach you in the street? No, I’m not talking about a baby or a puppy—nothing whose poop you have to clean up. This is something that requires a lot less work. Bucketfeet cofounders Aaron Firestein and Raaja Nemani first hatched their concept after Firestein designed a pair of artsy sneakers for Nemani during their backpacking days in Argentina. When Nemani’s shoes kept turning heads, he decided to start a business with Firestein that would allow other artists to get their designs out on the street. Over 3,000 artists from more than 50 countries have contributed sneaker designs, which can be submitted through the company’s website. The artists are paid up front and then make a commission on every pair of shoes sold. Bucketfeet started with an online shop in 2011, but now has a brick-and-mortar store in the Loop and a second location in New York’s SoHo; stores including Nordstrom and City Soles also carry its shoes. Firestein and Nemani intend to keep their headquarters here in Chicago, since many of the team’s core members have roots in the local start-up community. Their Chi-Town love is apparent: the recent Chicago collection featured designs by eight local artists.