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Judi Sheppard Missett: Jazzercise Franchise and More

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Judi Sheppard Missett is best known for establishing the Jazzercise dance fitness franchise. She did so in 1969 with the headquarters in Carlsbad, California, but it didn’t take long for the franchise to spread around the United States. Jazzercise is the combination of dance, strength and resistance training while listening to popular music. It is a full-body workout many women not only in American are acquainted with considering the fact that the company has over 8,300 franchises worldwide.

While you might be familiar with Jazzercise, how much do you know about its founder – Judi Sheppard Missett?

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Brief Summary

The first location where Sheppard Missett established the popular franchise was Chicago, Illinois, when she was a student at Northwestern University. At the time, she was teaching at a dance studio, but she had issues how to keep the attendees go through their workout routines and many would drop out.

To solve this issue, Sheppard Missett started holding classes “just for fun” and her workouts commenced with a jazz warmup. And therefore the name.

The family moves to Carlsbad, California, but Judi doesn’t have any intentions on giving up her plans. She started teaching classes in local rec centers and it didn’t take long for Jazzercise to take of in San Diego. Seeing that her methods are widely accepted, Sheppard Missett started training instructors herself.

Interestingly enough, most of the instructors in the beginning were a part of the military and the would travel the world and spread jazzercise, which was accepted by lots of people.

Sheppard Missett had a plan of reaching as many people as possible so she started filming her exercise routines and programs on VHS tapes. Should could now help people get fit from distance and it didn’t take long before Jazzercise became a hit. She started selling franchise right for the studios across the country because there were many interested offering high prices.

Not Taking Her Seriously

“I was the little exercise girl,” she said. “It wasn’t that I was smart or that I had built a business. It was just, ‘You’re someone who can get up there and dance, and hoop and holler, and you look so cute in your outfit.Well, today they are out of business and I did $93 million (in sales) last year.”
This is what Sheppard Missett said in 2009 when she was already known nation-wide. The point is that exercise fads come and go, but Missett was able to start a business that will stay here for a long time.

Good Intentions

Missett’s net worth is not known, but at the beginning of everything, she didn’t worry about the money. It wasn’t her priority. She started helping people and finding ways to make exercises entertaining and she continued doing that throughout her career, even when her business was booming.

Just to see what kind of person Sheppard Missett is, here’s what she said: “If somebody comes in and says ‘I really need this but I just can’t afford it,’ we’ll figure something out. And if it’s free, it’s free. In these times it’s about people helping one another, and if you can’t do that, then you are Bernie Madoff.”

“I never had a business plan,” she added. “I never had a blueprint. And I never got a loan for anything to this day.”

That may not be a good advice for all of you who are trying to enhance your business, but if something’s going well and the results are visible, it’s sometimes all you have to do. Judi Sheppard Missett may not be as popular as some other names from the fitness world, but she truly contributed to it with her innovative approach.



Ricardo is a freelance writer specialized in politics. He is with foreignpolicyi.org from the beginning and helps it grow. Email: richardorland4[at]gmai.com

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