A Phoenix Firm Offering a New 'Twist' on CBD Drinks

The AXIS crew, left to right: Dominique Simpson, publicist; Mechelle Tucker, co-founder; Ja-nice Johnson, CEO; and Brandon Wells, partner.
The AXIS crew, left to right: Dominique Simpson, publicist; Mechelle Tucker, co-founder; Ja-nice Johnson, CEO; and Brandon Wells, partner. Holley Vinae

Ja-nice Johnson already had a successful career in event planning. The idea of becoming a CBD entrepreneur wasn't among the Valley resident's long-term goals.

Then, nearly two years ago, Johnson's mother was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. Johnson began meal-prepping juices, smoothies, and slushies for her, hoping the nutrients would boost her mother's immune system and overall health.

But it wasn't working. The juices often piled up in the fridge, fermenting and separating before her mom was able to consume them. (Decreased appetite is a common side effect of cancer treatments.)

"We needed to find her something with a longer shelf life,” Johnson says.

Upon the suggestion of a friend, Johnson began looking into the benefits of CBD as a way to combat some of her mother's cancer-treatment side effects. Her mother was skeptical. She'd been clean from narcotics for many years, didn't want to take anything that might interact with her current medications, and was strongly against the use of opioids and other narcotics.

"I had to assure her she wouldn't test positive for THC," Johnson says, but, "once we got the OK from her doctors, oncologists, and nutritionists, she was open to it.”

They started small, with some CBD honey sticks and tinctures, but soon noticed a significant improvement in her health. “We saw her energy come back, absolutely,” Johnson says, “and there was a real improvement in her treatments.”

Seeing these positive effects firsthand set Johnson off on a path of CBD health self-education that would get her interested in developing a CBD beverage and eventually lead her to meet with representatives from Vessl, the Tempe-based bottle closure manufacturer, whose special cap can instantly mix two pressurized ingredients together. Johnson saw that the unique technology would allow for a 25 mg shot of CBD to be shot directly into electrolyte-infused water with no mixing or blending required — all with the simple twist of a cap.

The capability to have CBD properly sealed would extend the shelf life of a CBD beverage by about a year — far longer than the few days Johnson’s healthy juices survived in the fridge before inevitably being poured down the drain.

Johnson immediately acquired the license to Vessl’s patent, and with that, AXIS Hemp In A Cap was born.

“That wow-factor of twisting the cap and seeing the concentrate released is so exciting," Johnson says. "It really keeps people talking.”

Introducing a new business during a pandemic — AXIS was founded in May and launched its line in October — may seem like a risky move for some entrepreneurs. But Johnson is confident AXIS is arriving at just the right time. “People are eager to build their immune systems," she says. "They’re looking to combat insomnia and anxiety, and get a peaceful night’s sleep.” She adds that the company has produced 40,000 bottles in the last quarter.

AXIS Hemp In A Cap currently comes in four flavors — Lemon Drop Daiquiri, Tropical Berry Daiquiri, Strawberry Daiquiri, and Mighty Mango — and is available through the company's website and distributed by Vessl in Tempe. But Johnson says she's "just at the beginning of our hustle and grind" and has big dreams to see her product move beyond online sales.

“We want our product on every shelf that allows CBD,” she says. “And beyond just dispensaries, we’re looking to go as commercial as possible. We want to see AXIS in spas, gyms, hotels, and lounges. We have the beverage for now, but we hope to offer more on-the-go healthy items like pretzels, popcorn, and corn nuts in the future.”

AXIS beverages have been promoted at a variety of pop-up events in the Valley and through collaborations with artists including Miguel, the Grammy award-winning musician, who serves as a corporate ambassador and advisor for the brand. The colorful drink has even made a cameo appearance in a Rick Ross music video.

Unfortunately, following a long-fought battle with cancer, Johnson’s mother recently passed away, just before Thanksgiving. The product created to improve her mother’s health now serves as a means to keep her memory alive.

“Each bottle is in legacy of my mom,” Johnson says. She's going a step further, too: A portion of AXIS Hemp in a Cap's proceeds benefit the American Cancer Society. 
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