Afghanistan veteran Matthew Griffin can count on a standing ovation when he talks about his dream of propelling a manufacturing company in the country where he once fought.
He ends his tale with an invitation to join him in the “unarmed forces,” preventing conflict by spurring industry in troubled places. It brought the house down last year at Tacoma’s TEDx talks.
On Friday, a national audience will get a chance to see whether his do-gooder capitalist pitch for a company called Combat Flip Flops can win support from the name-brand investors who sit on the panel of ABC’s “Shark Tank.”
His Issaquah-based company was one of four businesses picked to compete in a special veteran-themed episode of the show.
It’s a competition in which up-and-coming businesses try to persuade established investors such as Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and former real estate magnate Barbara Corcoran to back their enterprises.
Griffin, who launched his company with fellow former Army Ranger Donald Lee and brother-in-law Andy Sewrey, couldn’t say whether Combat Flip Flops comes out on top.
They’re using the exposure to boost their campaigns on social media, offering prizes to people who show off their gear on Instagram during the episode.
“We’re super excited about it,” Griffin said. “We’re hoping for the most-highly watched episode of ‘Shark Tank,’ ever.”
Griffin and his partners have been building their company since 2011. They had a few setbacks, such as air strike in Pakistan that led to restrictions on travel in the region.
They had to learn how to assemble their products when another supply chain error left them with a shipping container full of raw materials for sandals in 2012.
The work paid off when they found their reliable manufacturer. It gave them hands-on experience with their tools.
Lately, they’ve settled into a groove selling designer sandals made in Colombia, scarves from Afghanistan and jewelry from Laos. All three are countries known for recent armed conflicts.
The company steers part of its revenue to charities that promote literacy among Afghan girls and that remove mines from war zones. Griffin and Lee served together in Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.
On the show, Combat Flip Flops is up against:
▪ A Tennessee couple who built R. Riveter, a company which sells handbags made from military surplus products.
▪ BearTek Gloves, a company launched by a Marine veteran which sells gloves for motorcycle riding and skiing.
▪ A former Air Force officer who launched Major Mom, a personal organization business.
A veteran-themed episode of ABC’s “Shark Tank” will air at 9 p.m. Friday on Channel 4 (KOMO).