Your background is in technology,
but in 2001 you teamed up with
a ftness instructor, Alberto “Beto”
Perez. Ho w do you tell an idea
that’s crazy from one that’s just
out of the ordinary?
Zumba was already happening,
but at a very small scale. It wasn’t
totally out of left feld. You have to
always be listening. When you fnd
something that’s hyperlocal but
you’re seeing a bit of a fever around
it, there’s an opportunity there.
How hard was it to convince other
people that this was a solid idea?
Early on, I was pitching the CEO
of an infomercial company. He said,
“This is cool, but does Beto speak
English?” So I called and asked him.
He said, “Dígale que sí ”—“Tell them
yes.” For the next 60 days, we tried
to teach Beto English. It wouldn’t
sink in. So on day 58, he says, “Just
teach me how to say, ‘Nice to meet
you. Sorry, I need to go.’ ” The guys
from the company came to watch
him teach a class. Beto comes of
the stage and says, “Nice to meet
you. Sorry, I need to go.” Then he
runs of and hides in his car.
Zumba charges instructors for
licensing and teaching materials,
but decided not to charge gyms or
participants. When should you
leave money on the table?
We reached that decision in service
of making the instructors successful. We said they should be able to
teach anywhere—why limit them?
There was a confict bet ween taking
more money and reaching more
people. We chose reach, because
we want everyone to be happy
and ft. The answer is look at your
mission. The brand has the answer.
Ask the brand.
Zumba’s instructors are its customers, and their passion has
made the brand a global phenomenon. How do you create an audience that evangelizes for you?
You don’t. They have to want to
do it. Invest in making your product authentic and something
that people are going to want to
share. Then you give them more
tools and more outlets, and you
celebrate the ones who do it.
The co-founder of Zumba Fitness
discovered a massive exercise craze—now
practiced by 15 million people around the
world—where no one else thought to look
By JEFF BERCOVICI Photograph by LAUREL GOLIO
Respect for others is a
big part of the culture
at Zumba Fitness, says
Perlman. To drive
that point home, the
company has a saying:
“Ego is not your amigo.”
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