Let's Get Physical
Jazzercise franchisees keep spandex alive
Back in the days of leg warmers, spandex and Olivia Newton John's "Physical," dance fitness was all the rage. But today only one of the many franchises that sought to capitalize on that particular craze remains: Jazzercise.
Why? It's not because people stopped loving dance. Just look at all the dance-themed reality shows on TV today (including Dancing with the Stars, whose two-time champion Cheryl Burke is now the spokeswoman for Jazzercise). Kelly Sweeney, Jazzercise's VP of U.S. sales, attributes the company's survival, and its continued growth long after its competitors went the way of other '80s fads, to its unique franchising model.
Jazzercise has a few types of franchisees. One is class owners. Like most of Jazzercise's franchisees, class owners teach classes themselves, but they also recruit instructors to teach for them. Those other instructors are not employees, though--they're fellow franchisees. Associate franchisees, to be exact.
Most Jazzercise franchisees begin as associates, and it's easy to see why. Associates can teach as many classes as they like (with a minimum of four per month) and leave running the business largely to the class owners. "It's a great way to get your feet wet and learn the business before you jump right in," Sweeney explains.
This model also benefits those who choose to make the jump to being class owners. "It's not like running a fast-food place, where you have somebody quitting everyday," Sweeney says. "Associate franchisees care about how well we do, because it's not just a paycheck to them--it's their own business."
The two-tiered model allows people from every walk of life to become franchisees. Mothers with small children can start out as associates teaching a few classes a week, then take on more classes or even become class owners as their kids get older.
As instructors get older themselves, they can teach low-impact Jazzercise Lite classes or transition to running the business more and teaching less. And with a franchise fee of only $1,000, even people as young as 18 can go from attending Jazzercise Junior classes to owning their own business.
It's also a business that can move with you. Kim Romines, a former ballet dancer, started out as an associate franchisee in Kansas City in 2001. But in 2003 her husband's job took her to Watkinsville, Ga., where there were no existing Jazzercise classes, "so I could either start them, or not have Jazzercise," she says. She chose the former.
After a month of searching for a location, she got into a women's health center and became a class owner. She built the business up to 17 instructors with 40 classes a week and had even moved into her own center before she had to relocate again in 2008.
Now in Abilene, Texas--and determined to stay put this time--Romines is building her business up once more, offering classes in two local churches. She's recruited 10 new instructors so far. One is a military wife, and a few plan to move in the next few years, so she knows they won't be with her forever--but she knows from her own experience that they'll be OK.
"They'll have their own business to take with them," Romines says, "and I love that."