Business ideas for 2012: Dance and Zumba

2011 was the year of Zumba, and the power of combining fitness, fun and dance shows no signs of abating

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Why is it so promising?

We may be in the middle of a recession, with rising unemployment and widespread anxiety, but thankfully a fast, fun and addictive Latin American craze is getting the world back on its feet.

Zumba, the dance workout which originated in Colombia, now boasts more than 7.5 million devotees around the world, thanks largely to its light-hearted, laid-back approach to dancing and getting fit. Google’s Zeitgeist feature, which lists the year’s most popular search terms, named Zumba among the hottest trends of 2011, and there’s no sign of it reaching saturation point just yet.

However, when it comes to setting up a dance business, Zumba is far from the only game in town. The enduring popularity of Strictly Come Dancing – which typically drew 12 million viewers during its last series – has led to a revival in ballroom dancing. Meanwhile street dancing has exploded among younger age groups, with more than 50,000 children taking part in classes across London last year.

Pole dancing is also going from strength to strength, as more and more women discover that learning these skills in a relaxed, female-only environment is a fantastic (and fun) way to stay in shape. According to one recent estimate, there are currently more than 30,000 pole dancing enthusiasts in the UK.

What are the specific opportunities?

New trends are emerging all the time – most recent Batuka, a Brazilian holistic workout akin to a hybrid of Zumba and yoga. So, if you want to create a thriving dance business, it’s wise to master as many different disciplines as possible, so you won’t be left behind when a new craze explodes.

If you’re a skilled dancer, and have a place to teach your chosen routines, the entry costs for this type of business are relatively low; you’ll need to get insurance, and rent premises, but there are few other overheads, unless you are doing something like pole dancing, which obviously requires its own specific equipment.

The one exception to this general rule is Zumba. If you want to become an instructor under the auspices of the Zumba brand, you’ll need to attend a basic training course, which can cost anything from £200, and then sit (or rather dance) a variety of additional courses created by the Zumba Academy. There’s no getting around this – Zumba is a company, not a generic fitness activity, so you’ll be in breach of copyright if you try and use the name without their prior approval.

Who’s doing it?

Sarah Johnson, Dance Fit Studio

“We’re based in Leicester, and we provide burlesque, Zumba, ballet fitness, street dance, belly dancing, and some tap. Basically we do anything that adds fitness for our members.

“I’ve danced in the past, albeit not professionally, and the idea to start my own business came three years ago. I’d had kids, contracted diabetes, and put on weight, up to a size 20. I saw Zumba on the shopping channel in 2009, realised I had to do it, and started going to classes in Burton-on-Trent – that was a 60-mile round trip, but it was the nearest place that did it!

“I got my Zumba qualification quite quickly, back in 2009, and I also trained in burlesque and Bokwa, a new dance routine which utilises hand signals and sign language. With all the licences I had to get – public liability, PPL, PPS, music licences – and the cost of the music equipment, it probably cost me around £1,000 to set up my business. Not that much compared to other start-ups, but then that doesn’t include advertising.

“We launched Dance Fit Studio in May last year, and I now employ five or six instructors in addition to myself. It’s hard work; I teach 18 classes a week, and on top of that I have to manage things like advertising and choreography. People might come to your class and think it’s the best job in the world, but there’s a lot of hard work that goes on behind the scenes.

“Zumba has been key to our business from day one, but it’s like when step and aerobics were big, you need to diversify – you can’t put all your eggs in one basket. That’s why I’ve got all the other offerings. With Bokwa, I think I could be a year ahead of the competition.”

Published Jan 2012

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