Inc. Magazine has named Zumba Fitness its “Company of the Year” for 2012, praising the fitness company for its entrepreneurial spirit, vision and community leadership, as well as its innovative approach to marketing.

Zumba, which originated in Colombia, has become a global phenomenon with a presence in more than 150 countries. From its meager beginnings in 2001, the now US-based company has grown into the largest branded fitness program in the world, with more than 14 million weekly class participants in over 140,000 locations.

It’s winning strategy? Think of it as the Amway of the fitness world.

While other fitness companies focus on helping clients lose weight, Zumba’s success (and income) comes from equipping, supporting and energizing its base of instructors. As a result, Zumba instructors are not only some of the company’s most loyal fans, but also its core customers.

“We decided to turn [Zumba] instructors into entrepreneurs,” says Alberto Aghion, Zumba’s president and COO, and one of its three co-owners. Alberto Perlman, another co-owner, adds, “Everything we do is to drive people to [the instructors’] classes, so they can be successful.”

To that end, Zumba launched the Zumba Instructor Network (ZIN) community and educational platform, where for $30 a month instructors have access to the tools they need for their classes, like ongoing education, CDs, DVDs, posters, fliers and ideas for new choreography. About 50,000 ZIN members log on to the network each week.

Support of instructors is also financial. Zumba Fitness spent $50 million on adverstising in 2012 and has budgeted an estimated $63 million for 2013, all with the end of driving consumers to classes.

Beyond the world of fitness, Zumba has become a force in the music, entertainment and retail industries, offering a workout apparel line, video games, fitness concerts, DVDs and CDs. In fact, Zumba has commissioned and produced close to 400 songs, with tracks downloaded millions of times on iTunes. The tracks played in Zumba classes have been so successful that in June Billboard called Zumba “the next major music platform.”

But why do consumers keep coming back? What makes Zumba different from other fitness classes?

You get a glimpse of the secret in the company’s motto: “Ditch the workout. Join the party.” Zumba isn’t about weight loss; it’s about doing something fun and making people feel good. In short, it’s about FEJ — pronounced “fedge” — Freeing, Electrifying Joy.

“We are in the business of making people’s lives better,” says Perlman.

And so an idea that came about one day in Bogota, Colombia, when Zumba founder Alberto Perez used salsa music to teach his aerobics class because he’d forgotten his aerobics tape, has nearly reached the level of religion, with millions of devoted fans across the globe.


Buchanan, Leigh. “Zumba Fitness: Company of the YearInc. magazine. December 4, 2012.

Press Release. “Inc. Names Zumba Fitness ‘Company of the Year’” PR Newswire December 4, 2012.

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