Two words one would never have predicted would be in the same sentence: combat and flip-flop. That may have been unlikely previously, but one former soldier is changing the rules of the game by uniting the tragedies of war, an opportunity for the hard working, and hope for a better, brighter future into an unexpected market - footwear.
Combat Flip-Flops is the brainchild of retired Army Rangers Matthew Griffin and Donald Lee. After having served many missions in Afghanistan, the two used their knowledge, experience and insight as inspiration to transform the ho-hum flip-flop into something constructed from tougher materials and a hard-hitting ethical philosophy.
"That's the point; it's never been done before," enthused Griffin when asked about the unique ideology behind the products and the company. "The catalyst for the idea was my witness to businesses having a more positive impact in developing nations than Armed Forces. We wanted to create a product that could be made anywhere, had global applicability, and (had) the potential to turn around active or recovering war zones - a flip-flop, if you will."
Griffin's response mirrors the company's mission statement, which is posted on the Combat Flip-Flop website: "To create peaceful, forward-thinking opportunities for self-determined entrepreneurs affected by conflict. Our willingness to take bold risks, community connection, and distinct designs communicate, ‘Business, Not Bullets' - flipping the view on how wars are won. Through persistence, respect and creativity, we empower the mindful consumer to manufacture peace through trade."
The company sure does walk the walk, so to speak: Every product Combat Flip-Flops sells puts one Afghan girl into school for a day, and each Peacemaker Bangle or Coinwrap (made from landmines dropped during the Vietnam war) sold clears three square meters of Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) from a region suffering from long-term war. The company also sells messenger bags, scarves, shirts and other swag.
"In 2016, we grew nearly five hundred percent and funded over two hundred years of school for Afghan girls," Griffin said proudly. "Combat Flip-Flops works in multiple countries, building relationships, growing businesses, and using profits to fund education."
Additionally, the company has established business relations with Afghanistan, Colombia and Laos, all of which are making products that fulfill the company's self-appointed duty of taking "a product that people in nearly every country on the planet wear, and making it a weapon for change."
It may seem strange to consider how a retired Army Ranger steps into the role of CEO. When asked how the military experience impacted his current work with Combat Flip-Flops, Griffin explained, "Heavy loads over long distances with a difficult mission at the end - and it never ends. Being a Ranger was training ground for being an entrepreneur."
Combat Flip-Flops is a perfect example of a good cause; it's a story of ordinary people doing extraordinary things for humankind. Griffin sums up the company's strive for continued success, "Our mission is to manufacture peace through trade - flipping the view on how wars are won. If we aren't working there, we're not fulfilling our mission."
For more information about Combat Flip-Flops, visit combatflipflops.com.