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Jazzercise Is Alive and Kicking Decades After It Got Started

The 1980s fitness icon avoids nostalgia but doesn’t ignore its roots.

From left: Judi Sheppard Missett, Shanna Missett Nelson, and Skyla Nelson.

From left: Judi Sheppard Missett, Shanna Missett Nelson, and Skyla Nelson.

Photographer: Michelle Groskopf for Bloomberg Businessweek

It’s just after 10:30 on a morning in early June at a beige strip mall in Oceanside, Calif., and Judi Sheppard Missett, 78, the founder and chief executive officer of Jazzercise Inc., is dancing her butt off. From her raised platform, Missett enthusiastically calls out directions and words of encouragement, her voice projected through speakers. Dozens in the brightly lit studio follow, pivoting, shaking, swerving, and sweating. An hour earlier, Missett’s daughter, Shanna Missett Nelson, was teaching her own fitness class, with a guest appearance on the platform by her own daughter Skyla, their affirmations busting through a nonstop playlist of pop anthems.

Founded by Missett in 1969, the closely held company, which is based in Carlsbad, Calif., has grown to encompass 8,000 franchisees teaching 32,000 classes each week worldwide. Even as much of the fitness industry contracted during the Covid-19 pandemic, Jazzercise had revenue of $73 million last year. How then is it that an exercise business that harks back to the era of Jane Fonda workout tapes, neon spandex, and legwarmers remains here in 2022—and is thriving? It’s thanks to a combination of online streaming, firsthand C-suite research of customer demands, and the willingness to adapt. Missett puts it plainly: “We’re good. We always put our customer ahead of everything. And in order to do that, we had to be creative.”