Zumba no longer just exercise, it's big business

Sun Jun 24, 2012 8:01am EDT
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By Kevin Gray

MIAMI (Reuters) - Alberto Perez started out as a street performer and then an aerobics teacher in Colombia, making extra cash on the side teaching the wives of businessmen how to dance in nightclubs in his hometown, Cali.

Today, he stands at the center of the Zumba exercise craze, having helped transform Zumba Fitness, a private company, into a rapidly growing fitness empire with heavyweight investor backing.

"I'm not a businessman, but I knew this had the potential to be something special," said Perez, who along with two Colombian associates founded the Miami-based company.

Zumba, a Latin dance-inspired aerobic workout, has exploded from a Miami gym phenomenon to infomercial and DVD smash hit into a global craze with some 12 million people taking classes every week in at least 125 countries. Zumba Fitness now boasts being the largest branded fitness program in the world.

Started on a shoestring budget in a Miami garage nearly 11 years ago, Zumba Fitness now has more than 200 employees, and a pair of New York investment firms are betting the craze has staying power.

What began as a company focused on fitness has evolved into a lifestyle and entertainment brand combining e-commerce, apparel and music, and a sought-after outlet for stars like hip-hop artists Pitbull and Wyclef Jean and reggaeton singer Don Omar who have turned to Zumba to promote their music.


Zumba got its start by chance in the 1980s.   Continued...

Alberto Perez (C), founder of Zumba Fitness, performs on stage during a meeting in Rimini, central Italy May 11, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer