Local Startup Coffee Company Grinds To Open First Storefront

Z Beans Coffee, a local startup coffee company formed by recent Mercer University graduates, finalized plans to open its first coffee shop with help from Macon, Ga.-based Central Piedmont Investment Group, Mercer University, and other faithful investors.

“We’re grateful for this opportunity to grow our business and to continue spreading our story throughout the local community” says Z Beans Founder, Shane Buerster. He also thanks the angel investor group, Central Piedmont Investment Group (CPIG), for believing in the Z Beans vision of creating sustainability in the lives of Ecuadorian coffee farmers, while also providing quality coffee for the Macon community.

Bob Easter, the managing director of CPIG, said the investment holds true to the company’s reputation of supporting the growth of entrepreneurship in Central Georgia. “We are excited for the opportunity to support these recent graduates from Mercer, so they can continue growing upon the foundation which they have worked hard to build,” Easter said. “These are the types of investments that will benefit the Macon and Middle Georgia community in the long-run.”

Z Beans was founded by Shane Buerster in 2017 after a Mercer On Mission trip to Zaruma, Ecuador, in July of that year. A trip originally planned solely to earn credits towards graduation soon changed the path for the young entrepreneur. While researching whether coffee would be a sustainable economic solution to an area where the leading economic driver, gold mining, was slowly depleting, Shane formed a strong relationship with a 65-year old Zarumian native, Arturo Peñaretta, who had over 50 years of experience in the coffee industry. Arturo would not only become a friend but a mentor as well.

Once Shane returned to the States, the two stayed in contact, and Shane continued practicing his Spanish with Arturo as his teacher. As the friendship brewed, Arturo pitched the idea of selling Ecuadorian coffee in the United States. Shane, seeing the opportunity facing him, agreed to the idea and the first shipment of 65-pounds would arrive soon thereafter.

Working out of the Mercer Innovation Center (MIC), the campus’ incubator for aspiring entrepreneurs and startup companies, Shane began roasting 11-ounces at a time for family and friends to try. Receiving tremendous reviews, the coffee was well-received by those who tried it, prompting Shane to import 300 pounds. Come August 2017, that order had grown to 4,000 pounds and in July 2018 it became 14,000 pounds.

“The MIC is thrilled about the growth of Z Beans from their company residency in 2017 to becoming one of the three fellows for this current year” said Stephanie Howard, director of the Mercer Innovation Center. “We look forward to supporting the growth of Z Beans, especially with their new retail expansion.”

The coffee shop is located in Mercer Village, 1635 Montpelier Ave, and is set to open Monday August 27 at 10:00 a.m. and will be offering $1 iced and drip coffee all day.

Central Piedmont Investment Group Investing in Downtown Macon’s Situation Room

Central Piedmont Investment Group (CPIG) is pleased to announce that it has made a major investment in Situation Room, a local escape room business in Downtown Macon. Situation Room was founded by Brandan Wormsbacher, Thomas Choi, and Sarah Choo-Yick in August 2016 to give Middle Georgia residents something fun and different to do in Macon.

“Central Piedmont Investment Group is delighted to be investing in another Macon startup. We’re always on the lookout for companies throughout the Southeast, but our heart is in Macon. Situation Room is unique in the area and we see tremendous growth potential, including franchising opportunities throughout North America. We were also impressed with the creativity and diligence of the founders,” said CPIG managing director Bob Easter. “We’re excited about helping them grow and exploring the various ways to accomplish this. We’ve been working with them for about a year and we’re looking forward to the future.”

Situation Room co-founder, Brandan Wormsbacher, was equally pleased about the partnership. “We’re looking to grow our business in the franchising aspect and we think they’re the partners to get us there. In addition to being our only outside investor, one of the biggest decisions in partnering with Central Piedmont Investment Group is the incredible counseling and mentorship they provide. Their experience and knowledge has been invaluable.”

For those unfamiliar with escape rooms, they are rooms where players must work together, using clues and solving riddles and puzzles to overcome obstacles to beat their given situation within a limited amount of time. They have taken the nation by storm over the last five years, but until Situation Room was created, Middle Georgians had to drive to Atlanta to enjoy the experience.

“Escape rooms basically ask the question ‘What would you do?’ – What would you do if you were locked in a room with a zombie? What would you do if you were trapped in the desert? With Situation Room, we expand the situation. We make it more immersive by telling a story while players go through,” said Wormsbacher. “We’re also unique in that our puzzles are geared towards a team. Challenges require the work of more than just one player to solve. This is fun and entertaining experience, and also a great opportunity for businesses and corporations to analyze their employees as a team. Unlike other escape rooms, we also offer a debriefing session to provide analysis and advice on how they can improve as a cohesive unit.”

Situation Room is located at 427 Poplar Street in Downtown Macon and tickets can be purchased online: situationmacon.com.

Wireless Irrigation Startup Reservoir Closes Seed Round

Reservoir , a technology startup pioneering wireless irrigation, closed a seed round with Macon, Ga.-based Central Piedmont Investment Group.

The angel fund’s managing director, Bob Easter, said the investment fits its strategy of funding promising startups in Georgia and the Southeast to foster the region’s economy.

“Reservoir is poised to be the first to market with a solution that irrigators have wanted for decades,” Easter said.

The funding will allow Reservoir to complete field tests with 10 of its client businesses in metro Atlanta, including Irrigation Consultant Services, MNI Direct, and Moon’s Tree Farm.

These early adopters will provide feedback on the newly developed Reservoir Spoke, a product that simplifies irrigation systems by replacing conventional hardware — wires, controllers, output modules, surge arresters, and decoders. This feedback will also help Reservoir improve the Spoke app, which lets users manage irrigation by site and zone from anywhere in the world.

Jesse Lafian , who founded Reservoir in 2016 as a junior horticulture student at the University of Georgia, explained how the Spoke adds value to a main target market.

“Irrigation contractors often bury thousands of feet of wire on a site and later have to make continual repairs,” Lafian said. “The Spoke allows them to add new valves without connecting wire from existing ones, saving money on installation and maintenance.”

Reservoir’s new technology will also benefit plant nurseries and tree farms.

“Many growers can’t use wired irrigation systems due to lightning. Their only option is to control valves manually, which is often very labor intensive,” Lafian said. “Since the Spoke is wireless, it allows them to automate irrigation with minimal risk of lightning damage.”

Central Piedmont Investment Group’s seed funding comes after Reservoir’s raise of $66,000 from pitch competitions including UGA Next Top Entrepreneur and FABricate, and grant programs including UGA Innovation Gateway/NSF I-Corps and Georgia Research Alliance.

Reservoir credits its success to support from the University of Georgia and the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Advanced Technology Development Center, which is the state’s technology incubator and has the company in its ATDC Accelerate portfolio. Reservoir is also a member of Four Athens, an incubator for the Athens startup community and an ATDC partner.

“The mentorship and fundraising opportunities provided by these organizations were essential in helping Reservoir close this seed round,” Lafian said. “They have been integral to our growth and success.”

Piedmont Brewery & Kitchen Named “Best New Brewer In Georgia” for RateBeer’s 2017 Best Awards

Macon-based Piedmont Brewery & Kitchen was named Georgia’s “Best New Brewer” for 2017 in RateBeer.com’s Annual RateBeer Best Awards. The RateBeer Best Awards reflect the results of millions of user generated beer ratings on one of the world’s largest beer rating sites, Ratebeer.com. The “Best New Brewer” award represents the top-ranked breweries that started collecting ratings on or after June 1, 2016. That group totals over 6,400 new breweries, of which Piedmont ranked #1 in the state of Georgia.

“We are extremely passionate about the beer that we craft at Piedmont. It’s an incredible honor to be named as one of the world’s best new breweries. We are following in the footsteps of past winners like Scofflaw Brewing, Reformation Brewing, Orpheus Brewing and Jekyll Brewing.” says Brian Whitley, Co-Owner and Head Brewer at Piedmont Brewery & Kitchen. “This truly proves that hard work and passion pay off.”

Other Georgia-based brewery winners include Creature Comforts’ “See the Stars” for Best Georgia Beer and Terrapin Beer Company for Best Georgia Brewery.

Medicare Pathfinder receives $175K in investment capital

Central Piedmont Investment Group, a, Macon, Georgia-based angel fund, is making a $150,000 seed round investment in Medicare Pathfinder, a healthcare technology startup.

In a separate announcement, Atlanta-based Medicare Pathfinder said it received an additional $25,000 seed investment from another investor.

Medicare Pathfinder uses data science and design to help seniors navigate the maze of Medicare plans, options, and supplements to find coverage that meets their needs and budgets.

It is a member company in the Advanced Technology Development Center’s ATDC Accelerate portfolio. ATDC, the state of Georgia’s technology incubator, is a economic development program of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute.

“Medicare Pathfinder has created an easy way for seniors — and the families supporting them — to navigate complex sets of options to select the most appropriate plan for each senior,” said Bob Easter, Central Piedmont Investment Group’s managing director.

Founded in 2016, the principals of Central Piedmont Investment Group created the fund to support and foster the development of promising ventures that contribute to Middle Georgia’s flourishing economic ecosystem. In addition, this group looks to invest throughout the state of Georgia and the southeastern United States. Central Piedmont Investment Group has $500,000 in assets under management, and is starting a second fund early 2018.

“Not only do these users benefit greatly from using Medicare Pathfinder, but so do insurance providers and federal and state government agencies,” Easter said. “Our investment group wanted to support this initiative.”

With these two investments, Medicare Pathfinder has raised $425,000 in outside capital.

“Entrepreneurs should always seek smart money and we like that each member of Central Piedmont Investment Group is a successful entrepreneur who provides a wealth of real-world business experience,” said Scott Cadora, Medicare Pathfinder’s CEO and founder.

“Their investment provides our company with both capital and valuable business insights that will help us execute our go-to-market strategy. We appreciate that they believe so strongly in our team, our technology and our business plan.”

The funds will be used to launch its technology, marketing and to develop follow-on technology, Cadora said.

New Angel Fund Launched in Central Georgia


MACON – Entrepreneurs in Central Georgia now have a new resource to help take their concept from dream to reality: Central Piedmont Investment Group (CPIG). The group is the area’s first angel fund, providing financial resources as well as well as leadership and guidance for local startup companies.

CPIG will focus their efforts on new and existing companies, located in the region, that exhibit potential for high growth and economic impact. The organization’s goal is to positively impact the Central Georgia economy by assisting companies develop, thrive and stay in the area.

A group of local entrepreneurs has been working to create CPIG for over a year and have personally invested funds to start the company as a sign of their commitment to the local community and its economic revitalization. The individuals are all accredited private investors, with years of entrepreneurial experience, and will provide mentorship for the companies selected to receive funds from the group.

“This angel fund will allow us to provide local entrepreneurs with startup capital so they can secure additional funding resources to get off the ground,” said Stewart Vernon, founding member of Central Piedmont Investment Group and newly appointed entrepreneur-in-residence at Mercer University’s Innovation Center.

CPIG will work closely with existing business support agencies to bolster the impact of their work, fostering local startups and giving them the support needed to be successful. Partners include the Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce, Macon Economic Development Commission and NewTown.

“Many communities we compete with to attract companies have similar organizations and now Macon can say that as well. We are looking forward to working with Central Piedmont Investment Group to create a good environment to support and grow businesses in middle Georgia,” said Patrick J. Topping, senior vice president for the Macon Economic Development Commission.