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Matthew "Griff" Griffin of Issaquah is a former Army Ranger whose wartime service inspired him to make the world a better place. He started a company called Combat Flip Flips. (Image: Combat Flip Flops FB)
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Local company merged combat boots & flip flops, and caught the attention of 'Shark Tank'

Standing still doesn't come easy for Matthew Griffin. "Griff" is a man of action. In fact, serving his country is in his DNA.

"I come from a military background - my grandpa fought in World War II, my dad was twenty year retired army officer," he said. "It seemed like a logical thing to do, and I really wanted to get out of Iowa. So I joined the army."

This former soldier personified the song about 'being an Airborne Ranger and living a life of danger.'

"I am academy grad, 2001. September 11th happened, I joined the Ranger Regiment and did three deployments to Afghanistan and one to Iraq," said Griffin. "It was very intense. The deployments were special operations, direct raids going and hunting going and chasing after terrorists."

Then, he had a revelation.

"During my deployments we just saw that armed conflict was only creating more terrorists," he said. "The more bombings we did, the more houses we raided - we're just bringing more and more fighters in. I just thought to myself, this is not the right way to go."

So he got out of the military, and a few years later he ended up back in Afghanistan - this time, in a combat boot factory.

Griffin wanted to make the world a better place. But wasn't sure how.

"That moment happened in the combat boot factory," recalls Griffin. "I was standing there and I was witnessing three hundred people go to work in Afghanistan, and I thought I'd done all these deployments and I'd lost all these friends and my friends were all killing themselves and like - was it worth anything?"

And then, as he was standing in the factory, he had a light bulb moment.

"There was this combat boot sole with a flip flop thong punched through it and man - it's ugly and cool Americans, would buy that and it just kept dawning on me, the juxtaposition of combat and flip flops and our world - our military service and our peaceful service. Everything about it just seemed to kind of click, and flip flops are the most popular footwear in the planet. It can't not work."

The former soldier envisioned transforming the war-time combat boot factory-- into a peace time factory for making flip flops. It was a way of keeping the workers employed and empowering them.

"It helps them by giving them steady, reliable income for their families," Griffin explains. "And it helps them also by not putting them in positions of danger which also endangers our troops and soldiers."

He enlisted his buddy Donald Lee to help him. And then he got 'the call.'

"I got a call on a Tuesday evening. A guy said we wanted you to be on Shark Tank. We got on Shark Tank, we closed three sharks, we really started working intensely with Mr. Cuban - and it's been a ride ever since."

Since then, the Combat Flip Flops company has been growing like crazy.

"Right now we make all out shemegh and textiles in Afghanistan and it's run in woman-owned factory in Kabul, Afghanistan so we employ women ages of 18-50 to make our products there. In Columbia where we now make our shoes in Bogota, it's a family owned business they started with five to six people there and now we're grown, we've remodeled their entire facility for ten to fifteen working every day.

More products means more sales, and more lives changed.

"I know we're put over five hundred girls to school in Afghanistan for a year and we're cleared over seventy nine hundred meters of land mines. They say to save a life is to save a world and if you just focus on one at a time, you're just helping lots of people," states Griffin. And while they are helping folks thrive, their company is thriving too. He showed us some of their newest shoe styles.

We started with the Interval which is the standard style slip on. Then we have the Factor, which are for the ladies so it's a cool little lace up. We go to the Exponent, which is a packable travel shoe for guys for men and women.

Bottom line: This business is good for the soul.

"We just have that growth mentality and we're just going to continue to get bigger and bigger and bigger. We're gonna help more and more and more people. That's how this mission works," says Griffin.

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