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Zumba has more than seven million followers


globally, taught by 12,000 instructors in 105 countries


for, Perez faced multiple setbacks. With next to no English and few contacts, finding work proved difficult. “I came here [to Miami] four times to


fi nd an opportunity, but nobody paid me any attention,” he recalls. It was only on his fi fth visit that he struck lucky with a successful audition that landed him a position at one of the city’s health clubs. But in spite of its early popularity, the Zumba classes – then still known by their original moniker “Rumbacize” (a combination of the Spanish word


‘rumba’ and the English word ‘exercise’) – remained ostensibly a niche class. The turning point came in 2001 after a surprise phone call from a former student.


“The mother of my now business partner [Alberto Perlman] took classes with me in Colombia, and she called and said:


‘Why don’t you meet my son? He has an idea you might be interested in’.” Tired of being dogged by businessmen


out to make a quick buck from him, he decided to give the former student’s son a chance and the pair arranged to meet in a nearby Starbucks, where a meeting


july 2010 © cybertrek 2010


of minds ensued. It wasn’t long before they were bouncing ideas off one another and had set the wheels in motion to bring the classes to a wider audience. First on the to-do list was branding.


Both felt ‘Rumbacize’ was ill-suited to a largely English-speaking audience and began brainstorming for an alternative.


“We thought of everything – Binga, Tanga, Bonga, Mango, Hakuna Matata,” laughs Perez. “In one of the meetings we


came up with Zumba and that was it. It sounded cool, easy and catchy.” Next, they hatched a plan to capture


the essence of Zumba, so that people who had never been to a class could understand its appeal. “We started with no money at all, so we organised some classes in South Beach [a popular neighbourhood in Miami]. People paid US$10 for the class and we made about US$2,000, which we used to pay for


Read Health Club Management online at healthclubmanagement.co.uk/digital 47


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