A pitch by two former Army Rangers to fight conflict by supporting “business, not bullets” won big-time backing from a panel of famous investors on ABC’s Shark Tank last week.
Combat Flip Flops, the Issaquah company that sells products from Afghanistan and Colombia, earned $300,000 in new funding from three “sharks” on the reality TV show.
It’s a boost that company founders Matthew Griffin and Donald Lee said would let them quit their side jobs and focus on their company.
“Having our mission of ‘Business, Not Bullets’ validated by the Sharks is powerful,” Griffin in a news release after the show. “It’s not just a good idea, it’s a legitimate course of action now backed by dominant players in the fashion, retail, and tech sectors.”
Griffin and Lee appeared on a veteran-themed episode of a show that lets up-and-coming businesses try to win backing from brand-name investors like Dallas Mavericks basketball team owner Mark Cuban and the founder of the FUBU apparel company, Daymond John.
Both Cuban and John agreed to go into business with Combat Flip Flops. So did “shark” Lori Greiner, the “queen of QVC,” the home shopping network. Each investor put up $100,000 for a stake in the company.
Griffin and Lee served together in Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. They launched their business in 2011 with Griffin’s brother-in-law, Andy Sewrey, hoping to sell sandals made in Afghanistan.
Today, they sell footwear from Colombia, scarves from Afghanistan and jewelry from Laos. They donate a portion of their revenue to charities that put Afghan girls in school and clear mines from battlefields.
Some of the “sharks” advised the company to focus only on footwear, but the investors who backed Combat Flip Flops liked its goal to promote peace through industry.
Griffin and Lee got a laugh when they teased “shark” Kevin O’Leary when he declined to invest in their company. Lee handed him a red chemical light and said “this is how we mark the dead.”
“We’ve heard Kevin talk about his money being soldiers, going to war, and other military analogies. When he dropped out, handing him the red chem light was the only logical thing to do,” Lee said after the show.