David Tenenbaum is an Air Force veteran and the founder of Honor Media. Honor Media is a nonprofit production company, digital agency, and consulting firm dedicated to helping veteran organizations tell their stories to clients, donors, and other stakeholders. Tenenbaum’s success is a tribute to the memory of his father. His father is also the reason he joined the military.
Tenenbaum’s father was a Holocaust survivor who emigrated to the United States after being liberated from Dachau by American GIs. Tenenbaum explains that joining the military was his way, “to repay that favor of what the U.S. did.”
He spent six years in the Air Force. After he separated from the military he had no transition plan. So, he returned to something that he had always enjoyed as a kid: motorcycles.
The company he started provided motorcycles and parts and services to racers and race enthusiasts. It was called Ben Jacob Design. The company was named in honor of Tenenbaum’s father. As he tells it, “Ben in Hebrew is son of. Jacob is my father’s name”.
In retrospect, Tenenbaum admits that what he had attempted to do was build a business out of his hobby. Still, he sank his life savings into it. And sank is the operative word. The business failed.
Having borrowed heavily to start the company and keep it afloat, Tenenbaum saw his credit score plummet. He was living in the company’s shop, trying to pay down its debts, and thinking, “where do I go from here?”
When revenue stopped coming in, he began to dismantle the business piece by piece. He ripped stickers off of motorcycles. He sold his tools. Tenenbaum shut down Ben Jacob Design. It was at that point that he, “went through another transition.”
Tenenbaum was learning what he could do and what he could not do. And he questioned what his own value was as a veteran. He returned home, reconnected with his mother, and began resolving his predicament. Through it all, his veteran identify held steadfast. He could not leave it behind.
Tenenbaum’s inner strength led him to launch Honor Media. He attributes its success to the lessons learned from his failed business. He relies on financial partners, advisors, and a board of directors to make it work. Another key to making it work is service. In essence, Tenenbaum’s greatest lesson is the value of service.
His journey from the military through the private sector into a role working with fellow veterans taught Tenenbaum something important about his value and purpose. That value and purpose is in serving others. In that he discovered the greatest expression of honoring his father.
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