Featured Speakers

Independent Operators Symposium

Matthew Griffin

Co-Founder and CEO, Combat Flip Flops

Matthew “Griff” Griffin is the co-founder and CEO of Combat Flip Flops, a footwear and apparel company that sells goods manufactured in conflict and post-conflict zones. Griffin founded Combat Flip Flops in 2006, after graduating from West Point and serving four tours of duty as an Army Ranger in Afghanistan and Iraq. The company uses their profits to aid the areas in which they are made as a part of Griffin’s mission to encourage peace through trade and “business over bullets.” A powerful and emotional speaker, Griffin is known for a moving TEDx talk on the power of persistence, creativity, and respect, as well as for his successful appearance on the entrepreneurial television show, ABC’s Shark Tank, where he secured a deal with not only one but three “sharks” including Mark Cuban. 

A graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point with a degree in engineering management, Griff served in the 75th Ranger Regiment as a Rifle Company Fire Support Officer, with three tours to Afghanistan and one tour to Iraq. Post military, he moved to the private sector as the Director of Military Sales for Remote Medical International and the Director of Special Operations for Protect the Force. 

After leaving the Army, Griffin specialized in developing solutions for companies growing business in “difficult” locations, which led to the development of Combat Flip Flops, now a $1 million retailer of shoes and accessories. The company currently operates in Afghanistan, Laos, and Colombia, helping local populations pull themselves out of poverty. Proceeds are additionally used to put Afghan girls in school and to help clear mines from war-ravaged lands in Laos.

In addition to his work with Combat Flip Flops, Griffin currently serves as a logistics officer for Team 5 Foundation, an organization comprised of veteran and medical volunteers who travel to remote areas across the globe providing medical assistance to those in need.

The Power of Persistence, Creativity, and Respect.

Matthew Griffin has moved from student to Army Ranger to military veteran to director of sales and special operations to co-founder and CEO of a global organization providing jobs, education, and safer communities for vulnerable populations. The journey has been eye-opening and full of challenges and successes. Throughout it all, Griffin’s biggest takeaway has been the importance of persistence, creativity, and respect—or, in other words, never underestimating the abilities of yourself or those around you. Here, Griffin shares his incredible life-story and lights up the stage with his passion and drive for change. Audiences leave feeling determined to chart their own course, focus their goals, and tackle big challenges.


Kevin Kelley

Principal, Shook Kelley

Kevin Ervin Kelley is the co-founder and principal of Shook Kelley, a strategy + design firm founded in 1992 with offices in Charlotte and Los Angeles. Shook Kelley specializes in the art and science of Convening: bringing people together around a physical place, space, idea, forum and experience. The firm’s client list includes well-known brands such as Harley-Davidson, Whole Foods, Kraft, Coca-Cola, Harris Teeter and more.

Trained as an architect, Kevin realized early in his career that design is a strategic weapon for any business in any industry. Kevin’s specialty is getting inside the minds of consumers and figuring out how the physical environment affects a consumer’s choice, comfort, retention and purchase behavior. This is a skill and technology that every consumer-based company can benefit from.

Kevin is a much sought after lecturer and presenter for various conferences around the country. He has taught courses on branding and marketing for the professional development program at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design and has previously served as a professor within the College of Architecture at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte.

Escape Velocity:  Extend beyond your orbit to find new success

Most of us start our careers full of an idealistic energy and determination to change the world, but after a few decades of slugging it out in the rough and tumble battlegrounds of business and boardrooms, many of us can end up losing that beginner’s drive, zeal and enthusiasm to make a dent in the world. We sometimes refer to this mid-career crisis as “growing up,” “experience” and “maturity,” but if we are not careful, this attitude can turn into a kind of resignation to just “go with the flow” and accept things as they are versus how they could be. The challenges of trying to work within the system are understandable given the daily pressures to meet quarterly expectations, but unfortunately the laws of the business jungle usually won’t allow us to just stay the course while the rest of the world is changing all around us. Significant changes in our industry never come at a good time, nor do they have any empathy for the elaborate systems and operational protocols we have spent our careers maintaining. More now than ever, the only way businesses can survive, much less thrive in this new era of relentless change, is to constantly be on the lookout for the next big thing, and then try to move their organizations—kicking and screaming—in that new direction. Of course, this all sounds much easier said than done.

During this provocative discussion, Kevin Ervin Kelley—a seasoned retail strategist and prototype design architect—will discuss the creative process he uses to help companies and leaders embrace change, find their next big thing and get their organizational mojo back. Through a series of enlightening principles, insights and case studies, Kevin will aim to equip the audience with the right stuff to propel their business and careers into the next orbit.


Paul Long

Speaker & Author

Paul Long is a motivational speaker and consultant that has challenged the corporate landscape for over a decade while engaging audiences around the globe. As the MLB Kansas City Royals’ 2016 Fan of the Year, Paul’s shenanigans have been featured in media outlets like ESPN, the Washington Post and even the Wall Street Journal!​! ​Through his concept of “Fundamism,” infectious spirit and unique take on F.U.N. in the workplace, Paul has provided memorable experiences at hundreds of events while championing pediatric cancer research. Paul’s keynote experience is sure to bring laughter, tears, and provoke thought to any event. So… are YOU ready to have some F.U.N.?

Connecting the Workplace and Life Through F.U.N.!

Two grown men, cat wrestling singlets and a social experiment. Paul Long leveraged his concept of Fundamism to become the Kansas City Royals’ 2016 Fan of the Year while inspiring his employees, organization and an entire city! Paul’s philosophy of Fundamism is a deliberate approach to happiness in the workplace, can be applied by anyone and is certain to move your team in the direction you desire. Based on the core principle of F.U.N., this experience will allow your team to explore their Foundation, Understanding of Others and help identify Next Steps in maximizing their overall effectiveness at work and in life. Laugh, learn and actively engage with your team while Paul coaches you through principles that help improve employee engagement, maximize productivity, provide memorable customer experiences and create a more F.U.N. work environment! This experience will provoke thought while leaving audiences with a strong understanding of specific actions to help improve their personal work environment.

Key Takeaways

  • Outline core behaviors that aid in creating a purpose driven life at home and in the office
  • Exploration of social styles and how to maximize communication effectiveness
  • How to gain a better understanding of others’ perspective and drive meaningful interactions – How to have more F.U.N. in the workplace and in life
  • Identify next steps in creating a F.U.N. implementation strategy