Donald Lee and Matthew Griffin are two former army rangers who pitch their business, Combat Flip Flops, to the Sharks in Shark Tank episode 719. Lee and Griffin are turning war on its head with their business, where they “make cool stuff in dangerous places.” They were deeply affected by their tours as they saw the devastation war creates. The are using their business and the manufacture of their products as a “weapon for change.”
Their flip flops, made in Bogata, Colombia out of combat boot soles, are their flagship product. They provide jobs in an impoverished area and send an Afghan girl to 2 days of Secondary School for each pair sold. They also sell sarongs – handmade in Afghanistan by local women; each one sold send a girl to school for a week. There's also their Peacemaker Bangles – made by artisans in Laos from bombs; each one sold clears 3 square meters of Unexploded Ordnance. They also make a tote bag right here in the USA.
They started their business back in 2011 with the goal of defeating ISIS and the Taliban with jobs and opportunity – not guns. They thought if they gave people viable options to joining extremist groups in order to feed their families, they'd be on to something. So far, it's working: former cocaine farmers now make their flip-flops, women in Afghanistan make their sarongs, and people in war-torn Laos make their jewelry. Griffin, who's done Ted Talks on the subject, believes “employment, socially conscious business and education are the most effective weapons against our enemies.”
So far, the guys are proving themselves to be right in their thinking. They now employ people all over the world – including veterans right here in the USA. They are living proof that opportunity works at making lives better. Even though they were unsuccessful in a 2014 IndieGoGo campaign to create a mobile factory, they've been able to push forward with their business. They also regularly contribute a portion of their profits to Aid Afghanistan for Education, the Mines Advisory Group, the Team 5 Medical Foundation, and THE STATION Foundation.
Combat Flip Flops likely wants to continue to expand their global efforts at creating peace through entrepreneurial opportunity. A Shark could certainly bring a lot to the table in helping continue their mission.
Combat Flip Flops Shark Tank Recap
Donald and Matthew enter seeking $150k for 10% of their business. They want to enlist the Sharks into their “unarmed forces” to help with their mission of creating “bad ass products in dangerous places.” Don and Griff (as he asks to be called) explain where their products come from and say they know businesses are more powerful than bullets. As they hand out flip-flops, they tell how they did two tours in Afghanistan and Don did a tour in Iraq.
Robert likes his pair. Kevin speculates the flips flops are the biggest seller, which Griff confirms. They cost $20 to make, $5 to ship, and they sell for $70. Total sales the previous year were $134K and they are well over that number so far this year, but they're only going to make 5% profit.
Daymond knows it's a complicated business model, but asks if they can scale; they say they can. Mark says he is a fan of business over bullets. Robert thinks they have too many products; they can't go narrow and deep at the same time. Daymond says they can't abandon the other products. Griff says they have orders from military exchanges and Canadian stores for flip-flops.
Kevin says he wants them to focus on footwear, he thinks they are too diversified; he's out. Griff marks Kevin as dead! Robert says there are too many products, he's out. Lori thinks they should focus on their strength, then branch out. She asks if other Sharks want to go in with her as Mark and Daymond are whispering to each other. Mark says he and Daymond are big believers. He wants them to focus, but he sees the bigger picture and wants to hire more people. Mark and Daymond offer $200K for 25%. Lori says she's out on that deal. Griff thinks they need a feminine touch, but Lori says they'd need 30%. Griff asks if they'll up the offer to $300K for 30% with all three sharks, they have a deal, and the Sharks agree!
RESULT: DEAL with Daymond, Lori, and Mark for $300K for 30%
Combat Flip Flops Shark Tank Update
A three-way shark deal is nearly unheard of on the Tank, but it's worked out well for Combat Flip Flops. The influences of each Shark is clear in the business' trajectory. Tech help shines through in the well-organized website. The development of their customer service and improvement of delivery times have Shark fingerprints all over them.
Since their Shark Tank debut, Combat Flip Flops has sent 68 more young Afghan women to school, and has helped to clear 3,800 square meters of ground formerly occupied by land mines. With sales increasing by 600% since their Shark Tank airing, Combat Flip Flops has been able to boost their support to Aid Afghanistan for Education, a charity that sends 3,000 under privileged children to school, and the Mines Advisory Group, an organization that has helped over 35 countries clear land mines since 1989.
With the help of their Shark partners, Combat Flip Flops is carrying out a dual mission: providing their customers with excellent products, and making the world a better place. They deserve a Shark salute.