Andy Sewrey and Matthew Griffin are two combat vets of the war in Afghanistan. Together with another businessman partner, they have launched an online store that sells flip-flops made in Kabul called “Combat Flip Flops”. The company is based in Issaquah and is paying Afghan workers to produce high-quality flip-flops. The company hopes to compete with brands such as REEF and Rainbow Sandals. The flip-flops are marketed especially to the military community, as well as consumers interested in social causes. They will be shipped to North America, Australia and Europe.
According to company’s website, the CEO Matthew Griffin and co-founder Donald Lee served in the 75th Ranger Regiment, including deployments to Afghanistan from 2003 to 2005. Griffin then returned to Afghanistan with Remote Medical International, a company that provides equipment and training to medical providers in remote areas.
A NATO policy designed to encourage local manufacturing in Afghanistan allowed for uniform and boot production for the country's new army. After seeing a factory in action, Griffin wanted to encourage future manufacturing efforts after the army’s needs for goods subsided. The president of Combat Flip Flops, Andy Sewrey, says "We want to empower these people with the economy; it is not a handout. It is trying to create an economy in a war zone."
The company hopes it will bring some sustainable jobs to Afghan workers and encourage "business, not bullets." The flip-flops go for a steep $65 a pair and are available in multiple styles. The most popular are the “AK-47” which have an AK-47 bullet replica and poppy flowers imprinted on the bottom of the shoe sole. "We think if more people wore flip-flops there would be less fighting," Griffin said.
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