Consumer demand for functional beverages, particularly functional waters, is currently reaching unprecedented levels. In response, the Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) industry has witnessed a surge in flavored water brands that tout diverse health benefits, prominently derived from antioxidants and vitamins. Yanni Hufnagel, the visionary behind Lemon Perfect, capitalized on this trend by creating a refreshing and hydrating flavored lemon water brand, now recognized as the fastest-growing entity in the enhanced water category.
In a recent conversation with Yanni, we delved into his decision to transition from basketball coaching to the launch of Lemon Perfect over five years ago. Our discussion spanned the brand’s remarkable ascent, its recent $31 million Series A funding round, featuring an investment from global superstar Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, and the promising trajectory that lies ahead for Lemon Perfect.
Yanni Hufnagel: The concept struck me as having immense potential, and my coaching experience in college basketball seamlessly translated into the realm of entrepreneurship. So, I took the leap, initiating the process of building the business and assembling a growing team. In many ways, I still find myself coaching a team today. This team, however, is more extensive—we presently have over 70 employees at the company—compared to the basketball teams I coached, typically consisting of around 13 scholarship players. Similar to a basketball team, we’re constructing this business against a scoreboard. In the beverage industry, it’s all about the scoreboard, and there’s a clear winner at the end. When you enter the Lemon Perfect headquarters, the first thing you see is the scoreboard, displaying gross revenue—the single metric by which we incentivize our entire organization. We make sure our entire team is well aware of our progress compared to the top-line revenue plan for the year.
In essence, this venture appeared as a substantial opportunity that I couldn’t let pass by. From the moment I decided to pursue it to navigating through the inevitable challenges, we’ve persisted—and today, I feel as optimistic about the business as ever.
Drenik: How did your experience coaching college basketball lay the groundwork for building a rapidly growing beverage company? In what ways does coaching basketball correlate with establishing a $100 million water brand?