Exclusive interview with the founder of Combat Flip Flops, Donald Lee and Mathew Griffin.
In this interview we talk with Shark Tank stars, Lee and Griff, the founders of Combat Flip Flops, to learn how they started their business and their model for helping Afghan children get education.
Lee and Griff are two super cool guys and we had a great chat packed with insights any entrepreneur can appreciate. As Army Rangers with several Afghanistan tours behind them, Griff and Lee saw a country filled with hard-working, creative people who wanted jobs, not handouts. Flip flops were just the start. They’ve taken a product that people in nearly every country on the planet wear, and made it a weapon for change.
Right now, all their flip flops are made in Bogota, Colombia, providing jobs and investing in people who desperately need it. Their USA made Claymore Bag’s flip the script, on traditional weapons of war. Instead of carrying bombs, these bags act as a carry-all for business tools like iPad’s, laptops and more. Their Cover and Concealment sarongs are handmade in Afghanistan by local women. Each one takes three days to make. The Peacemaker Bangle and Coinwrap are sent to us straight from artisans in Laos – and they’re made from landmines dropped during the Vietnam war.
The Double Bottom Line:
- Every product Combat Flip Flops sells puts an Afghan girl into secondary school for a day.
- Each Peacemaker Bangle or Coinwrap sold clears 3 square meters of Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) from a region rocked by long-term war – saving lives and providing economic opportunity.
“If you do what you’ve always done, you get what you’ve always got.”
Topics of discussion in this interview
- What gave them the idea for Combat Flip Flops
- How did they validate the idea?
- How did they land a Tedx talk?
- How they started selling thousands of pairs of flip flops
- Was it the flops that sold it or the story behind it?
- Did their cause help drive business?
- What it took to get on Shark Tank and the impact that had on their business
- What was it like being on Shark Tank and how did they prepare
- When does hiring PR pay off?
- The importance on creating a strong brand voice
- How did they handle scaling their business up?
- Challenges they faced and what lessons they learned
- Projections and forecasts – should you care?
- Should you play the big retail game?