Anna Lee grew up dancing, it was only natural she the dove into teaching dance. Anna has a fiery passion for fitness that was a perfect fit for the fast paced Zumba. I reached out to Anna Lee to share her story as well as tips she has found helpful around managing her business, marketing and hiring.
How did you get introduced to Zumba?
I have been working as a group fitness instructor for 15 years, and with the exception of spinning, have taught all fitness class formats e.g. Bootcamp Classes, Interval/Circuit, Step and TurboStep, Cardio Kickboxing, Yoga, and Hi/Lo Aerobics. I had heard of Zumba in 2009, found a Zumba training nearby, and attended my very first Zumba class at my Zumba training! I wasn’t sold at first, to be honest! But, after coming home, absorbing the music and the steps, I began to have A LOT of fun with it. I grew up dancing and even danced at the college level on two differenct schools’ dance teams, and had been teaching ballet for many years. Most of my fitness classes were athletic-based and ”dancey moves” were avoided. Zumba has me ”grooving” again and truly enjoying the rhythms of the different types of music! I was enjoying it, but it wasn’t until about 3 months into teaching Zumba, though, that the realization came of what a wonderful calorie-blasting workout Zumba could be, and how many steps could be taken during one class! With a dance background, and my fitness experience (also working as a NSCA-Certificed Personal Trainer), Zumba was a great fit.
How has your diverse background in fitness helped you as a business owner?
After teaching for 2 1/2 years at a local fitness club, I decided that I would like to start my own fitness classes in Oakley, ID where my sister, Tasha, and I owned and directed a dance studio. Under the business name of “Main Motion Fitness,” I worked as an ACE-Certified group fitness instructor and was the fitness director for 10 years. With this experience, I was able to take what I’d learned and start teaching in Burley, ID with my Zumba classes. “Main Motion Fitness” became “Planet-Zumba” in Sept. 2010 when my classes were moved to a large warehouse space that could accomodate over 100 people for classes, which it did! We were able to hold Zumbathons, Zumba Parties and classes that were so full of great people and energy with room for anyone who wanted to join in on the fun and experience!
What are two things you struggled with during the early days of building your business?
When I first began teaching Zumba Fitness classes in Burley, I rented the Lloyd Cox Event Center. It had a stage in about a 2,500 square foot room that could accomodate up to approx. 50 people max. for a Zumba class. This worked out well for a few months in the beginning, until class popularity was growing and the size of the space became an issue. We needed more room! I didn’t want people to be turned away because of lack of space! I knew of another Zumba Instructor in nearby Rigby, ID who rented a school gym (4,800 sq. feet) and I wanted to find a space large enough to hold as many people that wanted to come and experience Zumba. After a long and arduous search in Burley, we were able to locate a very large, empty warehouse space that needed A LOT OF WORK. It was filled with parts and miscellaneous debris, but it did have restrooms, a tall ceiling, and parking. I knew we could make it work, and it did happen, BUT ONLY with the help of some amazing, talented and giving FAMILY, FRIENDS, and my HUSBAND who works in construction. Many, many hours were spent sweeping, scrubbing, cleaning, painting, electrical wiring, and constructing a Zumba stage and raised Zumba floor. ”Planet-Zumba” at the warehouse was just gaining momentum when the local fire chief and several firemen made an unannounced inspection, even during one of my evening classes. After inspecting the building, he announced that we were under violation of certain capacity limit codes and that we would have to make some major changes or be evicted. Long story short: property manager wouldn’t comply and the fire chief gave us 30 days eviction notice. Needless to say, after months of work, we were devastated. Since then, we relocated for three months to a gym in nearby Rupert, ID and then relocated AGAIN back to the Lloyd Cox Event Center in Burley. Relocating a total of 4x has been very, very difficult. But, Planet-Zumba has some wonderful FOZees (the name Planet-Zumba fondly uses to refer to Fans of Zumba) who have supported Planet-Zumba’s classes through all of the challenging changes.
What were two ways of marketing your business that were key to attracting new students?
There were two means of marketing that have helped to spread awareness about my classes:
- The free local newspaper publications that comes weekly to everyone’s mailbox. Ads are not cheap, and the paper is only delivered once a week, but at least EVERYONE receives this free paper in their mailbox.
- I was fortunate enough to have one of the local radio personalities attend one of my classes when I was just starting out. She liked it enough, that she mentioned it on the air, and continued coming and continued talking about it on the local radio station. This helped tremendously, and I was flattered and really appreciated it!
- Word of mouth, word of mouth, word of mouth!
What is one of your favorite memories working with students?
All I can say to this question is this: as I get older, I will look back on this time in my life, and be so thankful for the opportunity I’ve had to teach large, fun groups of people through Zumba. It has been an amazing experience! I’ve had several bloopers and embarassing moments, but the exhilerating feeling that comes from leading good, fun, effective exercise set to addicting, fun music is almost unexplainable.
What are two tips you would tell someone considering opening up a Zumba or another fitness business?
Gain as much experience in the fitness industry as possible, and make sure you have a passion and respect for the industry.
Where do you see Zumba in the next 10 years?
I believe Zumba will still be alive and kickin’ in 10 years! I think there will still be some strong, respected, talented instructors teaching and still having a BLAST with it! Possibly, there may exist in 10 years, some more advanced formats of Zumba classes that will incorporate some strength training, body-weight exercises, and challenging circuits, like a “Power Zumba” or something of that sort.
How many instructors work at Planet Zumba?
In the beginning, it was just me! But, through the past two years, things have evolved. There are currently 3 official instructors (including myself) and 1 additional who helps out with Zumbathons and special occasion parties. (Incidentally, two of them are my sisters!)
What tips do you have around hiring instructors?
PERSONALITY, LIKEABILITY, the ability to make class members FEEL comfortable, and then of course, SKILLS and TALENT. Planet-Zumba has GREAT INSTRUCTORS!!!