Dave Lineberry has run his fair share of small businesses, but it wasn’t until his last venture went belly-up that he realized he wanted to help veterans like himself.
“It literally just about destroyed me,” he said. “After about four years of having a loss of self-worth and losing my direction, I decided to man up and do something I was passionate about, and that’s working with veterans and small businesses.
“I’m all about entrepreneurship; I’m all about the American dream.”
That passion led Lineberry to create the Warriors Entrepreneurs Network, or WEN, about a year ago, an organization dedicated to supporting veterans in starting, owning and growing their own small businesses.
So far, he’s worked with about 60 veterans and what he calls “plus ones” — direct family members of veterans.
The work Lineberry and his team do largely focuses on developing business models and consulting with veterans and plus ones, and it’s free — something Lineberry said is key to his business.
“American soldiers and veterans all sacrifice so we can have that American dream and small businesses are the backbone of [that dream,]” he said. “[WEN] is a passion that I wanted to do to save companies, create jobs, help veterans start their own businesses, but also make sure they have a reality of what they’re getting into.
“There are a lot of times when people think, ‘oh, this will be a good idea’ and they don’t know what they’re getting into. I want to be that support system for our veterans and our plus ones.”
Lineberry, who served as a paratrooper from 1985 to 1988, said he offers his services to “plus ones” because they, too, make sacrifices.
“My father died in Vietnam, and I recognize the sacrifice my mother made. And me and my brother made,” he said. “I work with plus ones just like I would a veteran, and I don’t charge. Everything I do for veterans is free. Everything I do for plus ones is free.”
Despite offering free services to veterans and their family members, Lineberry said WEN is not a nonprofit and most of its revenue comes from partnerships with other businesses, both veteran and non-veteran owned.
Most recently, Lineberry said he secured a partnership with Taco Mac, which will co-sponsor a golf tournament in Atlanta.
“It’s going to be the Taco Mac WENing Golf Series,” he said. “We’re going to be doing tournaments from Acworth all the way up to Gwinnett. We just had one last week at Chestatee.”
In addition to WEN, Lineberry and his team are developing FutureWEN, a program “getting together with kids in high school that are on the path to serving our country and introducing them to business prior to service.”
“The idea is we track them through high school to their first enlistment so that when they come out, we know who they are, we know what their goals are, we know what their MOS is — which is their job description — so when they come out, they’re not going to have to worry about getting a job,” Lineberry said. “We want to build a brand and FutureWEN [so that] our kids go to the front of the line; they don’t apply online.
This doesn’t mean we’re going to guarantee you anything [except for] an opportunity, but we’re going to present them opportunities that they’ve never had.”