Henry McKoy Jr. discovered businesses needn't have a single-minded focus on profit when he competed in a national track meet in Hershey, Pa., at the age of 12.
His tour of Chocolate Town, U.S.A., included a talk about the founder of the Hershey's candy company, Milton Hershey. Hershey not only believed in "a work force that was happy and engaged," McKoy was told, but Hershey also built a school for orphans and ultimately donated the bulk of his fortune - including his ownership stake in the iconic business - to the institution.
"That colored my vision from that point on, that businesses could be used for the greater good," said McKoy, who was the national 400-meter champion among kids ages 14 and under that year.
Fast forward a quarter-century - past twice being named an All-American while on the track team at UNC-Chapel Hill, past his initial career as a bank executive - and McKoy has carved out a niche for himself as an expert on the green economy and "socially and environmentally responsible" businesses. So much so, in fact, that last spring he was invited to the White House to discuss green jobs and green investing.
"Henry has established a reputation at both the federal and state level as someone who is innovative in the space of what we would call social entrepreneurship," said Tim Toben, chairman of the N.C. Energy Policy Council, which has a mandate to develop a long-range state energy policy.
McKoy, 37, is founder and CEO of Fourth-Sector Financial, a Durham consulting firm with six full-time employees that defies a thumbnail description.
"I'm in the business of how can a business make the world a better place, by helping to strengthen communities, and by doing it in an environmentally conscious way," McKoy said.
McKoy founded Fourth-Sector in 2006 after realizing that the timing wasn't right for his dream of creating a "green bank" that would serve businesses and offer "green mortgages" to consumers who wanted to build energy-efficient homes. But, as is typical of the competitive spirit that propelled him to sprinting glory, McKoy hasn't abandoned that dream; he's merely deferred it.
Meanwhile, Fourth-Sector helps businesses think strategically and focus on what is known as "the triple bottom line" of sustainable businesses: people, the planet and profits.
Banking savvy helps
Taking advantage of McKoy's banking background, Fourth-Sector's specialties include helping socially and environmentally responsible businesses raise financing as well as working with private equity funds focused on the young-but-growing field of "impact investing," or investing in socially responsible businesses. Among other endeavors, the firm also works with local and state governments on renewable energy policy and other green initiatives.
McKoy declined to disclose revenue figures. "I'll say we're in demand," he said.
Southern Energy Management, a 60-employee Morrisville business that works as a consultant and a provider of services in the energy-efficiency arena such as installing solar panels, hired McKoy and his firm last year to position the company so that it could obtain new financing. Co-founder Maria Kingery credits that work for the company's ultimate success in obtaining a larger line of credit.
"Every interaction that I ever had with Henry McKoy has been a good one," Kingery said. "I believe that Henry has the utmost integrity and a very strong desire and ability to put puzzle pieces together."
McKoy also was "the initial visionary" behind the BullCity Forward Initiative, which recently opened an incubator for socially conscious businesses in downtown Durham as part of a broader effort to create a new model for urban development, said Christopher Gergen, who heads the effort.
"One of the things Henry is particularly good at is recognizing macro-trends ... and where those trends are heading," said Gergen, who also is director of the Entrepreneurial Leadership Initiative at Duke University.
And that skill is in demand. McKoy practically has a second career - albeit one that doesn't pay - as a member of more than two dozen boards for government and nonprofit groups. That includes being appointed by Gov. Bev Perdue to the state Economic Development Board and the Energy Policy Council, as well as the Durham chapter of Habitat for Humanity and Sustainable North Carolina.
"Five, 10 years from now, I will be proud to say that I knew Henry McKoy when," said Chantelle Fisher-Borne, coordinator of Imagine Durham, a joint city and county effort focused on improving the community's quality of life, especially a healthier environment.
On the state Energy Policy Council, McKoy is the go-to guy when it comes to financial issues. Toben, the chairman, credits McKoy with suggesting an innovative approach that would enable the state's poorest counties to offer low-interest loans to consumers.
"That's what we're looking for from Henry," Toben said.
McKoy views these extracurricular activities as an extension of his business endeavors.
"They strengthen one another," he said, adding that he only works with groups that he is passionate about.
For most people, serving on so many boards would be "insane," Gergen said. "But somehow, he pulls it off."
Running all the time
McKoy grew up in Fayetteville, the fourth of six children - and first son - of a career master sergeant in the 82nd Airborne Division and a physical therapy assistant. He was raised on a dirt road where he raced his friends and relatives, and McKoy discovered he had a knack for it.
"I tell people all the time when they ask me if I still run, I tell them, yeah, I still run - just not as fast," said McKoy, who is 6-foot-2 and appears athletically fit at 215 pounds, although he was 25 pounds lighter when he was on the UNC-CH track team. Nowadays, he usually runs about 30 miles a week.
Despite his hectic schedule, McKoy carves out time for his two children, Jamila Anne, 10, and Jalen Anthony, 8.
"He comes to all the track meets and track practices, the basketball games, the volleyball and football games," said his wife, Euba, whom he met when they were both track stars at UNC-CH.
It wasn't love at first sight - they knew each other for about 18 months before their first date - but once they started seeing each other, it didn't take long for Euba to realize he was the one.
"He was compassionate, caring," she said. "He has a lot of sisters, so he knew what women need and want."
McKoy said he gets along just fine on five hours of sleep a night, but even so, he admits he has so much going in his business and personal life that he sometimes gets overbooked.
But, from where he sits, that's not all bad.
"I like to push my limits," he said. "I like to push myself to see, what is my capacity."
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