Claudia Salem has more in common with Zumba Fitness CEO Alberto Perlman than with most of her fellow Zumba entrepreneurs.
Like Perlman, Salem has an M.B.A. and a strategic vision. And she views Z Club NY, her own little bit of Zumba, as a growth business.
"We're already thinking, How do we set up a franchising model around Z Club?" says Salem. "We have to be really clear about what business we are in. We are in the business of coordinating the uncoordinated."
Z Club NY expects to produce revenue of $350,000 next year, which puts it near the pinnacle of Zumba businesses. Salem started the company in 2010 with her own favorite instructor, Edmee Cherdieu D'Alexis. D'Alexis was group fitness manager at the Sports Club/LA in Manhattan when Zumba launched its New York City program there. She has since trained many of the city's most talented instructors.
D'Alexis sought Salem's advice about starting her own Zumba studio. Salem, a vice president at AIG, helped D'Alexis with the business plan, then decided to join her. She put up $100,000, which allowed D'Alexis to quit her job and rent space in two locations. Now in six spaces, the company holds 40 to 50 classes a week, with class size averaging around a dozen. That's smaller than most Zumba classes but gives each student more space. At $19 for drop-ins, Z Club NY is on the pricey side.
The company offers numerous grace notes, such as a receptionist who greets customers by name; themed classes, including a popular one called Afro Fusion Burn; and sessions that are followed by mingling and drinks at a club. The partners also coordinate social events that incorporate Zumba. But the instructors are the major attraction. The company hires instructors the same way stage producers hire dancers, with group auditions. Thirty ZINs turned up at the last one, many attracted by D'Alexis's reputation.
Salem says the company will expand in New York. "We are both riding on the Zumba brand and promoting it," she says. "Our commitment to them is to make Zumba look as good as it can look.
"If Zumba is a burger," says Salem, "we are the black label of burgers."