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  • Writer's pictureRain Bennett

The Storytelling Lab - Ep30: Sustainable Business Stories with Eric Henry

Updated: Apr 27, 2020

This week’s guest is Eric Henry, President & CEO of TS Designs, a sustainable T-shirt manufacturing company in Burlington, NC. TS Designs is dedicated to creating locally made and environmentally responsible products that have a positive social impact! We discuss sustainable business practices, telling creative and interactive stories of products, and how to make a positive impact (personally and professionally).



Some people talk the talk and some people walk the walk.

Everybody (well okay not everybody) claims they care about the planet. They may flaunt their trendy metal straws at Starbucks or their canvas bags at Whole Foods.

Every business owner (probably) claims to care about their people first. They may say things like, “my employees are like family” or “we’re all in this together.”

But at the first sign of convenience, or a way to aid their bottom line, some business owners won’t live the values that they pretend to hold.

Eric Henry is different.

He is the President & CEO of TS Designs, a sustainable T-shirt manufacturing company in Burlington, NC. TS Designs is North Carolina’s first “Certified B Corporation.” That means that, even though North Carolina doesn’t recognize actual Benefit Corporations yet, Eric and TS Designs voluntarily built their business model to follow the triple-bottom-line approach that Benefit Corporations must follow.

They focus on people, profits, and the planet.

That means they put their money where their mouths are -- paying a living wage, offering great benefits, and using the most sustainable practices -- not just in their shareholders’ pockets.

Wanna know what’s cooler? They’ve been doing this since 1993!

No one back then thought it was cool to make our lives a teeny bit more inconvenient to live more sustainably. Trust me, I was alive.

It’s a good thing that sustainability is trendy now, I suppose. But I know we all have a thing or two to learn from people like Eric who have been living it for decades… and still make cool stuff.

Eric was such a nice guy and I loved that he was just a country boy trying to make the world a better place. We hit it off quickly and I even got a Solid State shirt in the mail!

I host him on my show and I get a present. What a guy.

Eric reminded me of a concept I talk about a lot to my audience: those of us with any privilege, those of us ahead of someone else in any way, have an obligation to look out for others.

He said,

“At the end of the day, you and I are the most powerful influencer in today’s society… we have a responsibility at the top of the pyramid to just be aware of the impact we are making.”

We discussed sustainable business practices, telling creative and interactive stories of products, and how to make a positive impact (personally and professionally).

He blew my mind when he told me how his company tells the story of their T-shirts!

Some highlights of our conversation:

  • TS Designs: Henry’s company and the first certified B corporation in North Carolina

  • TS Designs has been around for over 40 years and decided to focus on sustainability far before it was “trendy”

  • What is a B (benefit) corporation?

  • Patagonia and Ben & Jerry’s are some B corps that most everyone knows about!

  • Why doesn’t NC recognize B corporations?

  • Why starting a B corporation might be right for you

  • The difference between B corporations and nonprofits

  • Why Eric values a triple bottom line: People, Profit, Planet

  • Why a triple bottom line is good from an ethical AND business standpoint

  • The story of how TS Designs realized there was more to a business than a traditional bottom line and decided to become a benefit corporation

  • How TS Designs continues to improve themselves while also supporting a triple bottom line philosophy

  • Why Eric is committed to domestic apparel manufacturing with a transparent supply chain

  • What is lacking in the apparel industry

  • Cotton of the Carolinas: Entirely Carolina made T-shirts

  • Why you should consider staying inside your market and buying local

  • Sustainability as a journey, not just a destination

  • Solid State Clothing: TS Design’s radically transparent way to tell you the story of your clothing

  • Each shirt gets a QR code: Once the customer has the QR code, they can see how their shirt has been made (every step of the process), and even add their own part of the story!

  • How TS Designs is building the story of their products and letting the consumer be a part of that story

  • Why their biggest competition is price: TS Designs' ideal client cares about more than just low cost

  • Why you should (if you can) make more conscious decisions about what you spend money on

  • By being conscious of supply chains we can help mend the environment and more

  • How it all comes back to creating connections (sound familiar?)

  • The ways in which communication and marketing have changed since Eric joined the company in the 80s

  • Why he believes in complete transparency: it lets customers see behind the curtains and grow from mistakes

  • TS Designs' transitional plan into a worker owned co-op

  • Where Eric’s desire to make the world a better place came from

  • Eric’s childhood vegetable garden: his introduction to understanding the connection between people and the earth

  • Why he’s always looked as people as his company's most valuable asset

  • A business's responsibility to the planet

  • Why companies should take a stand on world issues

  • How little changes can make big impacts: be aware of the impact you have every day

  • When you have the opportunity to make the choices to live more sustainably, do it!

I hope you love Eric as much as I did.

And as always, enjoy the episode!

Peace and Love,



Follow Eric on Instagram @ericmhenry

Follow TS Designs on Instagram @tsdesignsnc

And check out their website at

For more storytelling tips and tricks,

Follow us on Instagram @sixsecondstories

Visit our website

Hosted by Rain Bennett (@rainbennett | Twitter) (


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