“I don’t want coffee. I just need three more hours,” John Mittel recalls thinking, as he made his way to the vending machines at the Health Sciences Center Library one stressful night. Looking at a water bottle, he thought, “Why doesn’t this have caffeine in it?”
Fast forward to present day and the country has been introduced to Phocus, a fizzy blend of caffeine and sparkling water. When the drink first launched in October 2017, Mittel and his team had enough to last them until March—or so they thought. Phocus was sold out within the first three months.
Even amid the drink’s immediate success, Mittel said he is just getting started. His ultimate goal “is to have Phocus sold wherever water is sold.”
Despite multiple opportunities to leave, Mittel chose to develop Phocus in the very city where he and his seven siblings grew up.
“We have ties,” he said of Louisville. “Every single member of our family has attended, in some capacity, the University of Louisville. The school has given me so much. The faculty that have been part of my journey through it all, they have been more influential than they know.”
In fact, Mittel credits his two UofL degrees for helping him envision and design Phocus. His medical background helped him create a healthy alternative to high-calorie energy drink and his engineering degree provided the insights needed for the sourcing and logistics that the entrepreneur handles daily.