As U.S. Army Rangers with several Afghanistan tours behind them, Matthew Griffin and Donald Lee witnessed firsthand the devastations of war. “We saw that lack of education and employment was the main driver of negative effects in these war-torn areas,” says Matt. “These countries were filled with hard-working, creative people who wanted jobs, not handouts.” Understanding the tremendous good that could arise from opportunities for fair employment, the two veterans along with Matt's brother-in-law Andy launched Combat Flip Flops in 2012. They support textile manufacturers in war-torn countries and use the profits to fund education and demining efforts around the world.
Since their early days as a three-man operation in Matt's garage,
Combat Flip Flops has relied on the Internet “to sell directly to
consumers, compete with big brands, and ultimately level the playing
field,” says Matt. Today, online sales comprise 80 percent of their
revenue. AdWords, Google’s advertising program, helps them market
their footwear, clothing, and accessories to consumers who believe in
their mission. Google Analytics provides the customer insights “to
refine our marketing in a thoughtful and methodical way and drive
forward as a profitable company,” Don says. And G Suite tools Gmail,
Docs, and Drive give them the logistical muscle of a much larger
company. “Google enables us to act as a very nimble team. Coming from
a Special Operations environment, we love that,” explains Matt.
In 2016 alone, Combat Flip Flops generated nearly $1.5 million in revenue, growing 450 percent year-over-year. Through their sales, they’ve helped fund the clearing of 7,700 square meters of landmines in Laos, put 255 girls through school in Afghanistan, and provided permanent jobs for 40 at-risk workers in Colombia. They’ve also partnered with a veteran-owned-and-operated apparel manufacturer in Washington state to support jobs at home while still advancing their cause. “When we first started, we felt alone and isolated. But now there are tens of thousands of people who want to see our mission go forward,” says Matt. “The ability to connect with all of them across any boundary, language, and timezone—that’s the best feature Google has provided us.”