Like many do, this story started with conflict. We, Donald Lee and Matthew “Griff” Griffin, were in the Army in 2003, ready to fight for peace. As Rangers, we believed military action was a clear solution to international struggles. We deployed to take those that wish to harm others, cause destruction, and hinder peace, out of the equation. We maintained the legacy of Rangers that lived by the creed before us and we strived to leave a legacy for those that followed. Men working together to go where others feared to tread. It was our honor to serve in the history of Rangers and uphold the prestige, honor, and high esprit de corps of the Ranger Regiment.
The realities of war
Through multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, we witnessed the realities of war. It isn’t like what you see on the news. There aren’t machine guns on every corner. You don’t need to run in zig-zag patterns on every street to avoid snipers. Mortar fire is rarely accurate.
What we did see was people trying to live in between machine gun bursts, mortar explosions, and car bombs. We saw friends and innocent bystanders hurt. We saw our brothers and sisters in the military return to a country that could never really understand what they asked of us. With war, everybody loses something, even the winners. We departed from the military in 2006 and returned home to lead our families and community.
Lightning strikes while the iron’s hot.
You can’t predict life’s course. A few years later in 2009, we ended up on a plane back to Afghanistan. This time, we were invited as businessmen, not soldiers. Within seconds of leaving the airport, we were amazed at growth rising from the mayhem. Road construction, commercial high-rises, billboard advertisements, and people hustling on every street and corner. During our stay we used Afghan drivers. Stayed in Afghan hotels. Ate in Afghan restaurants. And we felt safe. Afghans wanted to attract international business to improve their lives, community, and country. It was a complete paradigm shift from the feelings we had in uniform--we were welcomed. Businesses create positive change by providing a channel to interact absent of politics, religion, or past differences.
The thought occurred: “Why aren’t we doing more of this? Why aren’t we helping Afghan businesses grow?”
Then it happened--a tour of a combat boot factory in Kabul. What was going to happen to the hundreds of workers in the factory when the war ended? How would they provide for their families? Consumers buying a unique product to support a mission. That’s how.
It was on a table. Coyote brown. Covered in goodness. A combat boot sole with a flip flops thong on top. It almost glowed on the table. It was that or the proverbial light bulb illuminating possibilities. “That will sell,” was the thought. It was a matter of hours before the website domain was purchased and keys started flying on the keyboard. It took another few years before product was actually in hand. Sold a car to pay for tooling. Sold a road bike to pay for prototypes. Tightened the belt a few more notches to make it happen. Spent countless hours in front of a laptop learning how to run a business, ship raw materials into Afghanistan, and attempt to find those that believed in our concept. We were on a mission.
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Combat Flip Flops
Bad for Running. Worse for Fighting.