Entrepreneur Yanni Hufnagel
New York, New York
|🏡 Residence||Atlanta, Georgia|
|🏫 Education||Cornell University|
|🎓 Alma mater||University of Oklahoma|
Entrepreneur in Atlanta, Georgia
|📆 Years active||2017-Present|
|👔 Employer||Lemon Perfect|
|🏡 Home town||Scarsdale, New York|
Yanni Hufnagel is an American entrepreneur who founded Atlanta-based The Lemon Perfect Company, maker of Lemon Perfect, a zero-sugar flavored lemon water brand. Before launching Lemon Perfect, Hufnagel enjoyed a career coaching men’s college basketball, with stops at Nevada, California, Vanderbilt, Harvard, and Oklahoma. In his 10 years coaching college basketball, Hufnagel earned the reputation as one of the best recruiters in America, consistently lauded for signing nationally ranked recruiting classes. His teams reached the NCAA Tournament six times.
As Founder and CEO of The Lemon Perfect Company, Hufnagel has propelled the startup forward in a meteoric fashion. In three years, he has attracted top-level investors, including 28-time Grammy winner Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, who participated in Lemon Perfect’s Series A funding round. When that round closed, it increased the company’s funding to $42.2 million and its valuation to over $100 million.
Born on August 26, 1982, Yanni Hufnagel grew up in the quiet, leafy suburb of Scarsdale, New York. He was a team captain of the Scarsdale High School varsity lacrosse team.
Hufnagel played on his high school’s junior varsity basketball team but was the last player cut from the varsity team in his junior year. He moved to the other side of the court by becoming a color commentator on the local access cable TV channel. As an analyst, he was known for his sophisticated insights and detailed breakdown of plays.
At 16, Hufnagel coached 15-and-under basketball and lacrosse teams at a summer camp in Maine. He says that coaching has always been in his blood.
For his first year of college, Yanni Hufnagel attended Pennsylvania State University, where he was a defenseman on the lacrosse team. In 2002, he transferred to Cornell University, where he was a manager for the Big Red men’s basketball team before earning a bachelor’s degree in Industrial and Labor Relations in 2006.
Seeking more coaching experience and a master’s degree, Hufnagel attended the University of Oklahoma, where he became a graduate assistant coach for the men’s basketball team in 2007. He earned a master’s degree in Adult and Higher Education with an Emphasis in Intercollegiate Athletics Administration at Oklahoma in 2010.
Early Career: College Basketball Coach
Fatefully, Yanni Hufnagel’s two-year stint as a graduate assistant with the Oklahoma Sooners men’s basketball team coincided with the two seasons when future number 1 NBA Draft pick Blake Griffin played forward for the team. Hufnagel supported Griffin as he developed into an elite NBA talent.
Hufnagel spent four transformative years as an assistant coach and recruiter for the Harvard Crimson men’s basketball team from 2009 to 2013. He worked with legendary coach Tommy Amaker and star Harvard players Wesley Saunders and Jeremy Lin, who both went on to play professionally.
While at Harvard, Hufnagel helped the team win three consecutive Ivy League titles. Also during his tenure at Harvard, the Crimson upset New Mexico in the 2013 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament, which further bolstered Hufnagel’s reputation as one of the hottest young coaches in the country.
Hufnagel spent a season at Vanderbilt University as an assistant coach under Kevin Stallings from 2013 to 2014. He was credited by ESPN with helping Vanderbilt land the 29th-ranked 2014 recruiting class, which included consensus top-100 players Wade Baldwin IV and Matthew Fisher-Davis. Hufnagel then worked as an assistant coach for the University of California, Berkeley from 2014 to 2016. He landed in the same role at the University of Nevada, Reno from 2016 to 2017.
Later Career: Founder of The Lemon Perfect Company
Yanni Hufnagel left coaching to start The Lemon Perfect Company in 2017. He believed that the multibillion-dollar enhanced water category was ripe for disruption, so he launched his zero-sugar flavored lemon water brand, Lemon Perfect, to compete with drinks like Vitaminwater, Bai, and Hint.
The Lemon Perfect Company’s stated mission is to promote healthy hydration and deliver the joy of flavor—anytime, anywhere, and for everyone. Lemon Perfect is a great-tasting and hydrating flavored lemon water with zero sugar and no artificial flavors or sweeteners. Powered by squeezed organic lemons, Lemon Perfect contains electrolytes from potassium and is packed with vitamin C, making healthy hydration more convenient, delicious, and refreshing than ever. Lemon Perfect comes in seven flavors: Original Lemon, Dragon Fruit Mango, Peach Raspberry, Kiwi Star Fruit, Blueberry Açai, Strawberry Passion Fruit, and Pineapple Coconut.
BevNET, a top beverage industry publication, named Lemon Perfect one of the "Best New Products" at its Best of 2019 Awards.
In January 2020, superstar recording artist and businesswoman Beyoncé Knowles-Carter gave the company a viral boost after eagle-eyed fans spotted a Dragon Fruit Mango Lemon Perfect bottle in her limousine in a photo she posted on Instagram.