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Shanna Missett Nelson: “Laugh. A lot. At yourself. At life.”

Laugh. A lot. At yourself. At life. Whether it’s a good joke, kidding with family or a funny show, embrace laughter! It makes me feel so good and no matter what stresses or worries I’m experiencing; my favorite thing is to laugh. As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the […]

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Laugh. A lot. At yourself. At life. Whether it’s a good joke, kidding with family or a funny show, embrace laughter! It makes me feel so good and no matter what stresses or worries I’m experiencing; my favorite thing is to laugh.


As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Shanna Missett Nelson.

Shanna Missett Nelson is President of Jazzercise, Inc., guiding the group fitness industry leader in global and local markets and managing strategic direction of the brand. Having a front row view into how her mom, Judi Sheppard Missett, created the largest dance fitness company in the world, Nelson began as an instructor but quickly launched her business career as an international brand consultant and franchise owner herself. Shanna guides the corporate management team and steers the direction of the company. In addition to her role at the company, Shanna is a media spokesperson and motivational speaker who holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from the University of Arizona. Additionally, her contributions to the fitness industry have been acknowledged through numerous awards, public and media recognition. Nelson lives and works in Carlsbad, CA, with her husband and two daughters.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

Thanks for having me! First and foremost, I’m a wife and mom of two, but my day jobs include Jazzercise Instructor, Franchise Owner and President of Jazzercise, Inc. I started with Jazzercise by certifying as an instructor at 18 years old and am now fortunate enough to lead over 8,300 franchisees and more than 150 employees worldwide. In addition to teaching 3 times a week at minimum, I also create brand choreography, manage Jazzercise’s two corporately owned fitness centers and our corporate leadership team! My mom, Judi Sheppard Missett, founded Jazzercise in 1969, and while family businesses have their challenges, it’s a blessing to run the company alongside her.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?

I’ve had a lot of interesting and life-changing opportunities with Jazzercise — including traveling the world with my mom growing up, and living in Tokyo while helping to spearhead Jazzercise Japan at the start of my career. I’d still say developing our team in Southern California, where the Jazzercise corporate offices are based, and opening my own Jazzercise studio in Carlsbad, CA, have been the most rewarding. I run two big Jazzercise locations and a team of almost 50 instructors. I’m really proud of recruiting some of the best instructors and employees that have now become key players and motivators for the company. I feel like I’ve been able to contribute to our future by scouting and mentoring this talent pool that our whole global Jazzercise community looks to as role models. There’s nothing more interesting to me than finding the ways someone shines and sharing it with the world.

Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The biggest mistakes I’ve made have come from not trusting myself enough. It took some time to really listen to that nagging feeling inside of me. It’s always right. Now, when I wake up with that feeling, I listen. I also learn from other people’s mistakes. Years ago, Jazzercise gave one of our franchisees our really top-tier toolkit when she wanted to start classes of her own. At first, she had 30 people show up! She chose not to take the expert recommendations, and no one signed up for ongoing classes. When I asked her why she didn’t listen to the people with the experience to guide her, she said, “I wanted to see if I knew better.” I learned that, yes, it’s really important to trust yourself. But it’s also important to listen to the experts. They’re in their roles for a reason. Finding a balance between trusting my intuition and learning from others’ experiences and knowledge has ultimately served me well.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I feel so lucky that throughout my entire life, I’ve been surrounded by strong, smart, capable women. I never thought I couldn’t do something, and that’s because I watched so many women get the job done. There are a good number of people I could name, but I attribute my success to a culmination to everyone around me. I truly listen and pay attention to everyone and try to always learn from their perspectives. However, if I had to choose, someone who comes to mind is Jazzercise’s Director of Sales, Dani Gresham. She has mentored me in so many ways throughout my career — as both a franchise owner and business leader. I’ve called her many times when feeling unsure, and she always takes the call, listens thoroughly, and gives great advice. I try to do the same for others. Luckily, she still works for the company, so I get to talk to her all the time!

Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?

Jazzercise’s goal is to help people stay physically and mentally fit, and our classes welcome all fitness levels. I have witnessed countless transformations in our studios — and I’m talking about confidence, happiness, and what movement can do for someone’s soul. Watching someone gain self-worth through movement is extremely impactful. We also launched Jazzercise On Demand in September of 2019, allowing our program to be accessible anytime, anywhere, on any device. No matter where they are, people feel comfortable at Jazzercise. They meet their BFFs and mentors here, so they keep coming back. I know when I teach a great class, everyone dancing with me goes out and has a better day. That goodness spreads — the smiles, the energy — and we’re doing it all over the world, in 25 countries!

Can you share your top “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.

  • Eat clean. I know it sounds so “duh,” but it’s true. What you put in your body matters, so eat real food as much as possible.
  • Move your body. It’s just so important to keep moving. For your heart health, strength, flexibility, and mental clarity. Plus, it makes you feel good!
  • Cultivate your people. Choose friends who share your values and push you to learn, too. Surround yourself with mutually supportive, encouraging relationships. Positive people — however cliché it sounds — help you stay upbeat and inspired to give them the best version of you.
  • Laugh. A lot. At yourself. At life. Whether it’s a good joke, kidding with family or a funny show, embrace laughter! It makes me feel so good and no matter what stresses or worries I’m experiencing; my favorite thing is to laugh.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Have you heard of a little thing called Jazzercise? Dancing as exercise is definitely a stress reliever, and it’s proven! It releases endorphins and stabilizes serotonin, your feel-good chemicals. Jazzercise isn’t a health company, but our classes and our communities are a force of their own. Bringing groups of people together to dance and let loose to music for over 50 years is an accomplishment that sets us apart. I’d say Jazzercise is the original fitness movement — and there’s a reason why we’re still around today! Although many people remember Jazzercise from the ’80s, we’ve truly transitioned and pivoted through the decades. We’re truly a modern-day fitness revolution — incorporating strength and HIIT training, while dancing to the best music.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

  1. It’s really important to communicate with people: employees, instructors, anyone. Sharing your vision and insights help people around you do well and feel like their work has meaning.
  2. Vulnerability is strength. When we can learn from others and be vulnerable enough to ask for and receive help, it makes us better. I strive to challenge people to be the best they can be. When someone leaves the Jazzercise family, I want them to be a better employee in their next role.
  3. Little shifts can lead to big rewards. When people around me are faced with problems, I try to see if I can help them shift perspective. For example, I have an instructor at one of my studios who thought she needed to quit. Instead of letting her go, I reminded her that she loves teaching and told her I’d hate to see her lose something that gives her so much self-worth, while helping other people improve their own. After talking, she decided to take some time off instead of walking away. Now she’s one of our biggest advocates.
  4. Get comfortable riding the waves of challenges. I have seen many ups and downs over the years and thankfully Jazzercise has always been able to make changes and continue to grow through these periods. You’d think it would get easier, but I still have to remind myself that change is the only constant.
  5. Always look to fill your shoes with someone more talented than you. Find those like-minded people who share your work ethic and bring them up with you, so when you move on to something else within the company, your role will be filled with someone spectacular. The task of recruiting is never done.

Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?

Those are all extremely important, but the cause dearest to me is physical fitness. It truly is the fountain of youth. Movement makes people more dedicated and more motivated to take on challenges. We’re changing the world through physical fitness — one good mood at a time.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

https://www.instagram.com/shanna_jazzercise/
https://www.facebook.com/ShannaMNelson

Thank you for these fantastic insights!

Thank you!

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