Judi Sheppard Missett became a billionaire by founding Jazzercise Inc. in 1969 in Evanston, Illinois. She turned her love of jazz dance into an exercise program to help people get fit all over the world. Jazzercise is now based in Carlsbad in California and she is currently the chief executive officer and President of the company, and still teaches Jazzercise classes every week.
Judi was born in Iowa and attended Northwestern University in Chicago in 1962 and got a Bachelor’s degree in theatre and radio/television. While attending university she taught dance classes at a local jazz studio. She noticed that her classes had a dropout rate of around 90% so began to search for ways of boosting numbers. She talked to her students and discovered that many of them found the class too strenuous, and that her classes were more suited for dance professionals. She found out that the majority of her students joined the classes to lose weight and get in shape while having fun. Learning from this information, one day she decided to restructure her classes, starting “Just for fun” classes in which she kept her students turned away from the mirrors. This marked the start of Jazzercise, and the mission statement which is still used today: “We develop and market fun and effective fitness programs and products that enhance the well-being of people of all ages”.
In 1972 along with her family she moved to Southern California and five years later started training new instructors which led to the Jazzercise spreading across the whole world. Her philosophy is to “give back to the community” and accordingly she has managed to raise $26 million for a variety of charities through special large scale workout classes and by doing performances at big sporting events. She has also designed a “Kids Get Fit” workout program for children, which is free and aims to assist schools in promoting fitness. Furthermore she has released the “Cyberstretch School Giveaway Program” which has free software that shows its users how to lower tension and reduce the risk of repetitive stress injuries through energising stretch breaks.
Jazzercise has also led to the creation of numerous other successful businesses, such as JM DigitalWorks which is a full-service, video and multimedia production company and Jazzertogs which is a multi-million dollar fitness apparel mail-order catalogue company.
The company currently has over 7500 instructors and employs 161 support personnel.