Michael Shmerling: A Lifetime of Entrepreneurship and Impact

Michael Shmerling is a prominent serial entrepreneur and philanthropist in Nashville, Tennessee. In the 2nd episode of Circle Back Season 3, he shares his diverse range of business ventures, real estate investments, and philanthropic work, revealing his motivations, struggles, and successes along the way.

Shmerling grew up in Nashville with deep family roots. “I had an interest in business from a very young age, was kind of entrepreneurial.” He admired his cousin who was a CPA and lawyer that started a practice with his two brothers. According to Shmerling, his cousin gave him the best  advice he ever got, “If you become a certified public accountant, you’re going to see a lot. You’re going to learn a lot, then you can figure out if you want to go into business someday.” 

After graduating from the University of Denver with a Bachelor of Accountancy degree, he passed the CPA exam in 1977 at 21 years old and went on to his first job at Ernst & Young.

Shmerling would later branch out to his own practice and by his mid to late 30s, he decided to do something different. 

Shmerling’s entrepreneurial journey led him to drive efficiencies in several other companies and industries, including buying troubled businesses and turning them around. For example, he bought Vietti Foods, a Nashville-based canning operation founded in the 1800s, as well as a salad dressing company that had changed hands multiple times. In each case, Shmerling emphasizes the importance of mitigating risk and creating a hedge with real estate. He says, “One of the greatest opportunities I ever was presented, and that was luck that it got to me…it was a healthcare business, one of the very first ones I ever got involved in.”

In addition to his business ventures, Shmerling has a keen interest in real estate. Born on Church Street in Nashville, he has invested heavily in properties in the city, at one point owning about a million square feet of office space. He explains, “I’m much more the tortoise than the hare when it comes to investing. I thought that real estate was a wonderful diversification I needed in many of them for my businesses along the way, and they were convenient.”

Shmerling’s philanthropic work is deeply personal and rooted in his family’s history. His father was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease six months after retiring from his medical practice. Motivated by his father’s experience and the lack of quality care options, Shmerling founded Abe’s Garden, a state-of-the-art memory care facility in Nashville.

“I started taking note of some of the greatest programs and decided to create a facility here in Nashville. What better place for a healthcare facility like this, which has as its sole purpose, creating a center of excellence, a best practices dedicated facility,” Shmerling says. Abe’s Garden borrows best practices from facilities across the country, offering a comprehensive approach to memory care. Although his father passed away before Abe’s Garden was completed, Shmerling acknowledges that working on the project has been therapeutic for him, allowing him to give back and pay it forward.

Reflecting on his career, Shmerling emphasizes the importance of finding purpose in addition to success. “I think the thing about my career, that when I look back on it, it’s the most meaningful, is the discovery of the difference between success and purpose,” he says.

Michael Shmerling’s story highlights his resilience, adaptability, and commitment to both business success and social impact. From his early ventures to his more recent healthcare and philanthropy work, Shmerling has left a lasting impression on several Nashville industries. His words serve as an inspiration to aspiring entrepreneurs, reminding us to balance success with purpose and give back to our communities.

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Nashville Entrepreneur Center

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