On the #WeGotGoals Podcast: 50 Years of Jazzercise with President Shanna Missett Nelson

Shanna Missett Nelson

My first memory of fitness was in, you guessed it, a Jazzercise class. In elementary school I had a few classes at my dance studio, but that didn’t feel like a workout. (And why should it? It was dance. It was just fun!) It wasn’t until my aunt dragged me to her Jazzercise class one summer afternoon, and I was sandwiched between so many adult women dancing furiously for an hour, dripping sweat and repeatedly giving each other high fives between songs, that I made the connection: dance and fitness might very well be the same thing.

And for women across the nation and the world, Jazzercise was the first form of dance fitness to ever allow them to feel good – to genuinely have a good time – while working out.

“When Jazzercise began, there really wasn’t a fitness industry, ” Shanna Missett Nelson, President of Jazzercise and daughter of Jazzercise founder Judi Missett told me.

When Judi Missett saw women dropping out of her dance classes in school, she wanted to know why. The women loved to dance, but they weren’t as interested in being corrected, as they weren’t training to become professionals. And that’s when the lightbulb moment hit.

“My mom was just a dancer who took her love of dance and music and movement and realized that she was onto something. She never set out to make a company.”

But a fitness company she no doubt created. Not only did it become a full fledged business, she created a worldwide phenomenon. 2019 marks Jazzercise’s 50th anniversary for the 8,300 plus franchises that exist in 32 countries. 

On this episode of #WeGotGoals, you’ll hear Missett Nelson share what it was like to grow up with a mom who ran a business from compassion, love and sheer joy. You’ll also get a taste for the flip side of the coin – the hard skills it takes to keep momentum going for a worldwide brand that had to roll with the punches and the changing tides of the fitness industry for over 50 years.

“There’s not many companies in the fitness industry that have been around this long,” Missett Nelson explained. “We kind of grew into the industry and the industry grew around us.” 

There was no precedent for how to navigate the changing fitness industry quite like Jazzercise has had to do. It was, after all, one of the first to start franchising by training new instructors long distance through VHS’s.

Missett Nelson shares what she believes makes up the secret sauce to success (hint: it’s less of a secret and more about just doing what you do well without trying to be something you’re not). And she talks about some of her biggest goals and accomplishments, growing up wit the business, becoming an instructor, a corporate location owner and now president of the company.

To hear her share the ups and downs of running the business from a strategic perspective and a creative one is fascinating.

And, it wouldn’t be a #WeGotGoals episode if we didn’t ask our guests to share the big, scary goal they’re going after now. Missett Nelson is excited about taking their franchises along the journey of more digital components to Jazzercise – whether that’s through training, choreography dissemination, or additional classes. When you hear the passion behind Missett Nelson’s voice for what she does and what her female-led, female-driven business creates for the world, you’ll see why they have 50 more years of jazz hands in their future.

Like hearing what these goal getters have to say? This season, you’ll hear guests who have done big things related to building community, making the world a better place, getting better, stronger, and faster, and giving generously. You can subscribe to the #WeGotGoals podcast wherever you like to listen to them, on Apple, Spotify, and more.

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About Maggie Umberger

Maggie moved to Chicago from North Carolina in 2014 with a degree in Journalism and Spanish, a 200-hour yoga certification, a group fitness cert and a passion to teach and to sweat. It wasn't until she found aSweatLife that she really started to feel at home. Here, she's incorporated her passion for health and wellness into her career as she helps to build the network of Ambassadors, trainers and fitness enthusiasts that exist within the aSweatLife ecosystem. You can also find her coaching at CrossTown Fitness and teaching yoga classes at Bare Feet Power Yoga, Yoga Six and exhale.