Mother's Day: Mother/Daughter Team Lead Jazzercise to Continued Success While Inspiring Millions to Get Fit While Having Fun

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Jazzercise founder & /CEO Judi Sheppard Missett and her daughter, company President Shanna Missett Nelson, celebrate Mother's Day doing what they love - inspiring others to value the importance of fitness and health through group fitness programs worldwide.

Jazzercise President Shanna Missett Nelson (front left) and her mom, Jazzercise Founder & CEO Judi Sheppard Missett (front right)

As Jazzercise has grown, I have channeled my passion for fitness into helping people take charge of their well-being," said Jazzercise founder & CEO Judi Sheppard Missett. "My daughter Shanna shares that vision and she is an invaluable business partner.

When Jazzercise founder & CEO Judi Sheppard Missett taught her first dance fitness class in 1969, she had no idea it would grow into an international fitness dynasty.

Now, 42 years later, Missett and her daughter – Jazzercise President Shanna Missett Nelson, will celebrate Mother’s Day doing what they love – inspiring others to value the importance of health and fitness through movement and dance; and empowering women to become business owners as Jazzercise franchisees. With 7,800 instructor franchisees teaching 32,000 classes weekly in all 50 states and 32 countries, the world’s leading dance fitness program continues to thrive, building on nine consecutive best ever years in system wide sales growth, and ranking as the #1 fitness franchise on the 2011 Entrepreneur Magazine Franchise 500 list.

According to Missett, who continues to develop new choreography, teach Jazzercise classes weekly, and run the international fitness company as CEO, the milestone represents two of her greatest accomplishments: a program that has helped millions of people and a successful business relationship with her daughter.

“My own mother was a great inspiration and helped me get to where I am today. She was passionate about introducing me to dance and sacrificed so much for me to take lessons,” said Missett. “As Jazzercise has grown, I’ve been able to channel that same passion and creative energy into helping people take charge of their well-being. No one understands that legacy better than my daughter, Shanna. She shares my vision, and having her as a business partner and successor is invaluable to me.”

Passing on the Legacy

The legacy of passion and integrity has been key to the long term success of the business, according to Missett. From the first class to today, she has remained true to her founding principle: fitness should be fun and it should help empower people to lead healthier lives.

For Nelson, who grew up with Jazzercise, the vision was shared from the beginning, although she admits she didn’t grasp the enormity of what her mother had created until she was a junior in college. Though she had joined the Junior Jazzercise performance group when she was seven years old, and had spent her teen years witnessing her mother’s first workout album rise to gold certification status, it took moving away to college for Shanna to realize just how popular Jazzercise was outside of Southern California.

“During college I started going to Jazzercise classes in Tucson, Arizona,” Nelson said. “At that time, I became a certified instructor without my mom even knowing, but I never thought about going further with the company. It wasn’t until my mom suggested I come home to teach at the Corporate Jazzercise Center that I really knew this was what I wanted to do.”

Nelson later worked her way up to lead the Junior Jazzercise program, international operations, and eventually join her mom in guiding the company into its prime.

“Everyday I watched my mom get excited about her job and I couldn’t help but share her passion,” Nelson says. “Jazzercise has been more than her life’s work. It’s something she truly believes in and has used to motivate people everyday. When it came to identifying role models and a career path for my life, both were very clear to me.”

Lessons for Success

Judi and Shanna, with the aid of 35 district managers worldwide and 228 corporate employees, run the multi-division company from the Jazzercise headquarters in Carlsbad, California. In the past year, they’ve led the company to a best-ever $96 million in system wide sales growth; continued to expand internationally with classes now offered in Egypt; evolved the Jazzertogs line of fitness apparel; released a new fitness DVD produced by the company’s in-house award-winning production team --JM DigitalWorks; and joined their instructors and customers in raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for a variety of charitable causes. Both say they anticipate continuing that momentum because they’re able to draw upon each other’s strengths.

“We bring different perspectives to the table,” Missett says. “We talk through new ideas for the brand and the choreography, and that collaboration generates something even greater. We complement and challenge each other to remain cutting-edge without going to extremes.”

For Nelson, her CEO mom has taught her that it’s often the simple things that help to sustain a growing business. “My mom has shown me that when you love what you do, then every day you are doing what you love.”

About Jazzercise

Judi Sheppard Missett, who turned her love of jazz dance into a worldwide dance exercise phenomenon, founded the Jazzercise dance fitness program in 1969. Judi advanced the business opportunities of women and men in the fitness industry by growing the program into an international franchise business that today, hosts a network of 7,800 instructors teaching more than 32,000 classes weekly in 32 countries.

The workout program, which offers a fusion of jazz dance, resistance training, Pilates, yoga, and cardio box movements, has positively affected millions of people worldwide. Benefits include increased cardiovascular endurance, strength, and flexibility, as well as an overall "feel good" factor. Additional Jazzercise programs include Junior Jazzercise, Jazzercise Lite and Personal Touch. For more information about Jazzercise, go to or call (800) FIT-IS-IT.

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Adam Fell
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