“Sustainability is a journey, not a destination.
I’ll be on that journey for the rest of my life, both personally and professionally. Not one person has the answer; the answers lie within your community.”
Eric Henry’s journey into sustainability started January 1, 1994, the day NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) was enacted and he saw the business he started in the late 70’s completely destroyed. He realized then there is more to a business than a bottom line and changed to run TS Designs based on a triple bottom line of people – planet – profit. The vision of TS Designs is to make the highest quality printed apparel in a domestic transparent and trackable supply chain. TS Designs became the first certified B Corp in North Carolina.
Current president of TS Designs, Eric got his start when he launched Creative Screen Designs in 1978 while attending North Carolina State University. Two years later, he and Tom Sineath merged companies to incorporate TS Designs.
Outside of TS Designs, Eric devotes much of his time to furthering the sustainable agenda.
A strong proponent of collaboration, Eric founded the Burlington Biodiesel Co-op in 2001.
Later, the desire to reconnect local agriculture to Alamance County spurred Eric, Charles Sydnor, and Sam Moore to establish Company Shops Market, a co-op grocery in downtown Burlington. Unfortunately, Company Shops closed in the summer of 2018 after struggling in the very competitive grocery market. The collaboration that drove it is still very much alive, however.
In March 2019, Burlington, NC, will again become the beneficiary of strong community partnerships. Eric, together with Ian Baltutis, the current mayor of Burlington, and Peter Ustash of Pandora’s Pie started Burlington Beer Works Co-op, the tenth co-op brewery in the country and the first in North Carolina to open its doors with over 2,000 owners.
Eric’s other collaborative efforts include the board of the Burlington Downtown Corporation, an organization that works to enhance downtown Burlington as the cultural, historic, social, and economic center of the community. Eric also serves on the advisory board of Elon University’s Doherty Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership at the Love School of Business.
He has served on the board of Alamance Chamber of Commerce, NC GreenPower, Green America, Business for Local Living Economies, and Specialty Graphic Imaging Association, where he was the chairman in 2002.
Born in Radford, VA, Eric moved with his parents to Burlington, NC, when he was three years old. Later, he studied agriculture for two years at NC State University before transferring to UNC Chapel Hill to pursue an economics degree. Before starting his senior year at UNC, Eric got an offer he couldn’t refuse and left school to join Tom Sineath as co-owner of TS Designs, Inc.
Then in 2001, his friend and mentor Will Hooker, who directed the permaculture program in NC State’s School of Agriculture, invited Eric to take an online permaculture class he was teaching. Always an avid learner, Eric took him up on it.
Today, Eric and his wife Lisa continue working with Will as they develop a permaculture plan for the 12 acres of farmland they call home in Snow Camp, NC. They’ve planted over 200 trees on the property and begun the process of converting the 20-year-old house into a “net zero” energy home, installing a geothermal system, a 4.3kw solar array, and a wood stove insert.
When they moved from their home of 26 years in downtown Burlington, Lisa’s goal was to be closer to her horses, and Eric’s was to get closer to the soil. With an expanding vegetable garden and growing brood of chickens, they are well on their way to achieving these goals. And they continue inviting others to join them on the journey to a more sustainable future.
And a final fun fact… Eric currently drives a fully electric Chevy Bolt but ran his VW Golf on biodiesel for over 350k miles before donating the car to a local charity. The Golf is still on the road today.
Are you looking for someone to talk on made-in-America, local supply chains, the economics of US hemp and cotton, or running a business post-90s NAFTA?
Eric would love the opportunity to speak at your next event. If you’re interested in having him as a speaker or member of a panel, please email him at email@example.com.
To see Eric in action, check out his TEDx talk.
Listen to a great conversation between TS Designs president Eric Henry and The Conscious Entrepreneur. A little over 15 minutes long and well worth the listen.