Perez' plan worked. Fitness Quest produced four Zumba videos and a 30-minute infomercial with Baywatch babe Donna D'Errico as the hostess. She asked Perez: "What kind of muscles do you get?" It took Perez 18 takes to correctly say: "Long, lean looking muscles."
When the infomercial began running on TV, people rang the call center in Ohio to buy the videos. But a few also called to inquire how to become Zumba instructors. Those callers were forwarded to Zumba's office - at Aghion's home. After a few 2 a.m. wakeups, Aghion realized there was another business opportunity.
A two-day Zumba training was held at a South Florida Radisson Hotel. About 150 people showed up, paying $300 each. The fitness manual was a bunch of arrows that attempted to show Perez' moves. "It was horrible," Perlman admitted.
While using the profits of one training session to pay for the next session, a Miami-based advertising agent for Kellogg's called in 2003. The wife of then CEO Carlos Gutierrez was a Zumba fanatic and she thought it was the perfect activity to get the Hispanic market to exercise and get involved with the Special K brand.
Kellogg's put Zumba Fitness on its cereal box. Over three years, the companies held publicity stops at nine of the largest Hispanic cities in the United States. Perez led classes with adults and kids in a hot Tony the Tiger costume.
While the campaign was a success, Zumba Fitness was still a struggling company in 2006, with just five employees. The three Albertos said they kept going because of all the stories from instructors and class participants about how Zumba changed their lives for the better.
Their perseverance and faith paid off. In 2007, when much of the U.S. and global economy was starting to tank, Zumba Fitness took off. Many laid-off workers became Zumba instructors. The company launched its international program and 24 Hour Fitness became the first big chain to embrace Zumba classes. All the other major fitness chains have since followed suit.
Zumba Fitness also has greatly benefited from Internet advertising and social media. Many people discovered Zumba via YouTube videos. Zumba Fitness started a Facebook page about a year ago and now has more than 3 million fans. Zumba is mentioned every 11 seconds in social media platforms, Robins said.
Perez travels the world with DJ Francis to teach people how to become Zumba instructors.
Zumba classes are an especially big hit in the United Kingdom. While there are only 7,000 gyms there, classes are held at 13,000 locations, including hospitals and churches.
In Prague, Perez was on a news program to talk about his training session. When he learned that one couple had delayed their wedding to take the class, Perez jokingly said he would marry them. The couple arrived in a white dress and tux.
From Malaysia, "Beto calls me and says he thinks he just taught a class of ninjas because they were wearing black outfits in the Muslim section," Perlman said.
Perez said he couldn't see their faces during the class, "but I think they were smiling."
The three Albertos all laughed at the story while seated around the large conference table inside Zumba Fitness' new headquarters at The Village at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach. They now employ 217 people, nearly four times the staff it had just 18 months ago.
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