A Concept With Deep Roots in Chicago

By Gary Davies // Friday 8th of April, 2016 // 4:31 PM

Experiencing Chicago Ideas Week was a key influence in the creation of the new Best of Calgary

By Gary Davies

My wife Allison and I had the opportunity to visit Chicago last October. The trip was planned around our wedding anniversary and her birthday, which happen to fall within weeks of each other. And while the main focus of our visit was enjoying great bands, eating good food, and basically just enjoying the sights and sounds of the Windy City, there was a research element to the trip as well.

Our joint venture group had already purchased the rights to Best of Calgary a few months earlier and we were still in the planning stages of the overall concept. We knew that we didn’t just want to run a survey and then publish a list of winners. It seemed dated, and we wanted to do so much more to celebrate the people, places and organizations that make this a great city, but we also wanted to recognize that there are many ways in which our city could be better.

How, we wondered, could we do both? Enter Chicago Ideas Week.

Our aforementioned trip fell right in the middle of an event known simply as Chicago Ideas Week. Founded in 2010, the concept was simple to explain, but not so simple to execute: bring together a broad spectrum of thinkers and instigators to share ideas, and you have the power to change the world.

But this was more than a grandiose TedX event. This was a week-long series of nearly 200 events in multiple venues. These events included keynote talks; panel discussions; and one of the coolest concepts we experienced – labs. Labs essentially provided ticket buyers with the opportunity to visit a unique and innovative place of business and learn about its history, its business model and its products, in a fun and engaging environment.

We’re hoping that this will be the start of a five-year vision to create a Best of Calgary concept that mirrors Chicago Ideas Week – a week-long celebration of what makes this a great city, while bringing together leaders, thinkers and doers to make our city better.

We decided to attend the Bucketfeet lab during our visit. Located 10 minutes outside of the downtown core, Bucketfeet is a Chicago-based footwear company that “connects people through art.”

The business model is simple: anyone, anywhere in the world, can submit a design to the company that can be used for one of its line of shoes. An in-house committee selects the pieces that will be developed into actual footwear to be sold via its web site and through its retail stores. Selected artists in turn receive an upfront fee and a royalty for every pair of shoes sold with their design on it.

We got to learn the story of Bucketfeet while were presented with the blank canvas of our own pair of shoes. We were given paints, brushes and permanent markers and over the course of two hours, we got to design our own pair of shoes that we were able to take home with us when complete.

I’m a terrible artist but I made my best effort to design a pair of shoes with the Best of Calgary logo on it (as created by Calgary designer Eric Seymour). I haven’t worn those shoes since our visit to Chicago, but I plan to on June 29th when we launch our Best of Calgary Showcase, Conference and Bash.

Full Best of Calgary memberships, which provide you with access to both the conference and event, are now available at an advance rate of $299, plus service charges and GST. If timing only allows you to attend the conference, those tickets can be had for $199, plus service charges and GST, while event only tickets are available for $149, plus services charges and GST.

Gary Davies is a co-founder of Best of Calgary