Combat Flip Flops expands its catalog through crowd-funding

August 26, 2014

By Peter Clark

Local veteran-founded business Combat Flip Flops has secured more than $15,000 in crowd-sourced funding to launch another product.

Contributed Matthew Griffin, Combat Flip Flops founder, models the Cashmagh, a new product line for the business.

Matthew Griffin, Combat Flip Flops founder, models the Cashmagh, a new product line for the business.

The Cashmagh is a cashmere shemagh, or scarf. The material is sourced from goats in Afghanistan, and then processed and woven in India.

The money was raised through VetLaunch, which began its mission to fund veteran-owned small businesses July 4.

“We wanted to be a front-runner,” Combat Flip Flops co-founder and former Army Ranger Matthew Griffin, “Griff” to his friends, said. “We ran a couple of crowd-funding campaigns before. We know how those things work.”

The goals of VetLaunch aligned with those of Combat Flip Flops.

“We have the same mentality to help vets transfer out of the military and set up for success,” Griffin said. “I knew they were the right place for us to set up this crowd-funding campaign.”

The campaign that ended Aug. 18 not only funded the expansion plans of Combat Flip Flops to the tune of $17,740, but it also was the first completed drive on the site. That means a lot to VetLaunch founder Sean Mcintosh.

“I was just fortunate to get in touch with Griff, and his campaign just took off,” Mcintosh said. “Overall, Griff’s campaign is just a great example of how vets can create their own jobs.”

After 13 years in the Navy, the Kansas man said he wanted to get involved with helping veterans establish businesses and felt beginning a crowd-funding platform would serve as a step in the right direction.

“It’s hard to borrow money right now, and banks do not count military experience as business experience,” Mcintosh said. “I saw the need for resources for veteran entrepreneurs. VetLaunch really is that.”

With the money, the Issaquah-based business can afford sourcing the cashmere, production and marketing to sell the product.

“We knew if we were going to fund it, it would be outside of our current business,” Griffin said. “It’s too small for conventional bank lending and too big for our credit.”

Why sell a cashmere shemagh?

“It fits within our model of Afghan production,” Griffin said, referring to the flip-flops made from combat boots that inspired the whole business. “This can help lead to peace and prosperity, and no conflict.”

It also was a product that spoke to Griffin personally.

“I build products for me,” he said. “Most shemaghs are made of cotton or polyester. No one had made a perfect one.”

He said it works as a comfortable survival piece that he takes with him bow hunting.

Kate Ketschek, who handles public relations for Combat Flip Flops, said the Cashmagh could make a real impact in Afghanistan as well.

“Afghanistan is the world’s third largest cashmere producer and last remaining cashmere resource in the world with untapped potential,” she said. “The Department of Defense thinks Afghanistan cashmere potential is so awesome, they’ve assigned a special task force to organize the national industry and streamline exportation.

“This cashmere product is a direct government-to-commercial handoff as a result of the capacity-building by the Department of Defense.”

Ketschek added that selling the Cashmagh would coincide with an evolution of production in Afghanistan itself.

“Starting in September, Indian manufacturers will be training Afghans on loom building, weaving and finishing with the intent to move weaving and finishing to Afghanistan by spring 2015, depending on demand,” she said.

While Combat Flip Flops is no stranger to crowd-funding, its last campaign on did not succeed. Griffin said they learned a lot from the experience.

“It’s not this magical, surprising thing — it’s a lot of work,” he said. “Our last campaign was very complicated, so we made it more understandable and digestible. Simple is better.”

The Cashmagh and Combat Flip Flops’ other merchandise is available at another new, veteran-owned business, Uphill Running at 100 Front St. S.

Learn more here.

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