If Zumba® is today’s most prominent dance fitness program, than Jazzercise® is the industry’s most enduring veteran; 44 year old Jazzercise Inc. was recently ranked #12 as America’s top global franchise for 2012 by Entrepreneur's Franchise 500®
Originating in 1969 by Judi Sheppard Missett, Jazzercise was well-known as the leading dance fitness program in the 80’s and 90’s, yet even Missett acknowledges: “it is not always recognized as the current and modern fitness program that it has become today. Jazzercise has evolved into a workout that combines the original concept of dance and movement to current hit music, with newer Pilates, yoga, strength training and kickboxing trends.”
Jazzercise Inc. began franchising in the 1980’s with classes now offered exclusively at either corporate approved locations or franchisee owned Jazzercise studios. Sandy Hull has been owner of the 10,000 sq. ft. Denver Jazzercise Center since 1996 and has a 15+ instructor staff that including Hull provides 40+ classes weekly. Hull believes her continual high class numbers are because: “participants may leave and try other things, but they usually end up coming back. They miss the camaraderie and the total body workout that jazzercise offers.” East Hampton CT Jazzercise franchisee Grace Couture who with her staff of 8 offers 20 classes weekly between 2 rental locations says returning participants tell her: “Jazzercise is more fun and there is music variety, compared to the Latin- only Zumba. No matter what kind of music you like, there is usually some kind of it in every Jazzercise class.”
Jazzercise Inc. provides franchisees new routines five times/ year to a variety of music mixes: Top 40, jazz, country, funk, rock, blues and hip hop. Class routines may vary, but instructors must only teach the company generated choreography. This requirement, combined with annual quality corporate reviews helps to maintain program excellence and insure brand consistency. According to Jazzercise Marketing Communications Specialist Nicole Cox: “One of the reasons we've been around so long is because we do not subscribe to every trend and gimmick that comes around but rather we strive to improve on the basic program while staying true to who we are.”
Compared to Zumba which requires no additional licensing/franchise fees from a studio to offer Zumba classes, Jazzercise is not as easily accessible. Although certified Zumba instructors receive initial training, there is no company mandated routines or on-site corporate visits. Jazzercise does require more commitment, but owners like Hull and Couture appreciate the corporate support and feel this is what has led to a committed provider base, company longevity, and their own business success.
Although growth had slowed in recent years, the future is promising: Jazzercise was ranked #7 for 2013 Fastest Growing Franchise. Programming options have expanded to include: Junior Jazzercise ® for kids and Jazzercise Lite® for pregnant women, and aging baby boomers. Jazzercise was also the featured franchise on a recent episode of A&E’s: Be the Boss.
2013 marks Zumba’s 12th year and it was when Jazzercise entered its own second decade it evolved into a franchise system. Will Zumba need to alter their strategy to ‘keep the party going’ for the long term? We'll check back in 30 years!