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September 26, 2023 | Tom Ballard

Four inductees named to Nashville’s “Entrepreneurs’ Hall of Fame”

The four are Eddie George, Shirley Zeitlin, Jim Ayers, and Saurabh Sinha.

The Nashville Entrepreneur Center (EC) has announced the four new inductees to be welcomed into the “Entrepreneurs’ Hall of Fame” at the 2023 “NEXT Awards” on October 23 at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center.

This year’s class includes:

  • Eddie George:  From the football field to the board room and Broadway musicals to graduate business schools, Eddie George personifies a renaissance man. A Heisman trophy winner (1995) a first-round draft choice, earning National Football League Rookie of the Year honors in 1996, then later running back for the Tennessee Titans, George’s performance on the football field is nothing short of historical. He was selected to four consecutive Pro Bowls and led his team to Super Bowl XXXIV before retiring. Business success soon followed, earning an MBA at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. A series of entrepreneurial triumphs include the Edward George Wealth Management Group. As an actor, George played Billy Flynn in “Chicago” on Broadway, and in many theatrical productions, feature films, and TV roles. His authentic, heartfelt performances have earned him rave reviews. As Professor Eddie George, he gives back through higher education and developed The Business of Professional Sports at the Fisher School of Business at The Ohio State University where he brings perspective to meet the challenges and opportunities for aspiring professional athletes and future business executives. Since 2021, George has served as the 22nd head football coach at Tennessee State University.
  • Shirley Zeitlin: As a second-generation Nashvillian, Shirley Zeitlin is a real estate entrepreneur and community activist, who founded the residential brokerage company, Shirley Zeitlin & Co. Realtors, in 1979. Shirley Zeitlin became a prominent figure in the world of real estate and community leadership with a lifetime of achievements and contributions that have left a lasting impact on Nashville and its real estate industry.  Throughout her career, Shirley emphasized the importance of professionalism and integrity and championed training and educating her agents to ensure they represented the company with honesty and excellence. She fostered a culture of teamwork and family, which contributed to its growth and reputation. Zeitlin’s commitment to Middle Tennessee, intertwined with her business values, is evident in her philanthropy and community involvement as an integral part of entrepreneurship. In 2018, the company affiliated with Sotheby’s International Realty, ushering in a new era as Zeitlin Sotheby’s International Realty. Locally rooted and globally connected, the firm now services clients in 20 Middle Tennessee counties and around the globe through the firm’s outstanding partners.
  • Jim Ayers: Ayers’ entrepreneurial journey has spanned various sectors, including healthcare and real estate. However, it was in the banking industry that he would leave an enduring legacy. In 1984, alongside a business partner, Ayers acquired Farmers State Bank in Scotts Hill, TN, which marked the inception of what would eventually become FirstBank. Through strategic acquisitions and a steadfast commitment to personalized service, FirstBank’s assets skyrocketed from a modest $14 million to a staggering $13 billion, solidifying its position as Tennessee’s third-largest bank. Ayers’ commitment to community involvement and social responsibility is evident through the establishment of The Ayers Foundation, providing scholarships and educational support, and his significant contributions to healthcare initiatives, including the Jim Ayers Institute for Precancer Detection and Diagnosis.
  • Saurabh Sinha: Saurabh Sinha is the Founder of Emids Technologies Inc., a global healthcare technology company. Sinha started his business in 1999 in Silicon Valley and moved to Nashville six years later. Under his leadership, Emids evolved from a web-development services company to a healthcare-focused technology powerhouse with 3,500-plus employees worldwide, growing at 40 percent CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) over the last 15 years. The company’s focus on healthcare became a key differentiator, and it thrived in an industry known for its complexity and regulatory challenges. Sinha’s commitment to addressing digital inequality in healthcare, and his dedication to social responsibility are evident in Emids’ initiatives, such as providing laptops to those in need. His legacy extends beyond his role as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Emids, as he transitioned to Chairman in 2023.

The “Nashville Entrepreneurs’ Hall of Fame” honors individuals who have built long-standing and meaningful careers in Nashville. Previous inductees include Dolly Parton, Darrell Freeman, Trisha Yearwood, Cordia Harrington, Leatrice McKissack, Phil Bredesen, Jon Yarbrough, Andre Prince, Mike Shmerling, Steve Turner, and Amy Kurland.

“Nashville’s entrepreneurial landscape is marked by individuals whose remarkable vision and tireless dedication have built businesses and livelihoods here in Nashville and around the world,” said Sam Davidson, CEO of the EC. “Their stories inspire us all to dream big and work hard. Join us in celebrating their extraordinary achievements at the ‘NEXT Awards’ event, where we’ll honor not only our Hall of Fame inductees but also the next generation of trailblazing entrepreneurs who will shape Nashville’s future.”

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