Judi Sheppard Missett

She was a pioneer in understanding just how big fitness would become—and has stayed on top of her company for 50 years.

Fitness Nation
 Photo Credit: Courtesy subject

Not many entrepreneurs have to rent out convention centers to celebrate their companies’ silver anniversaries. But that’s what Judi Sheppard Missett did in June, when more than 3,000 teachers and students of Jazzercise descended on San Diego for two days of classes (some taught by the 75-year old Missett), branded apparel, and general hoopla. An on-site museum chronicled Missett’s odyssey from a 13-year-old hoofer instructing kids in her parents’ basement in Iowa through her founding of an international brand that was, in the ’80s, the nation’s second largest franchiser and a pioneer in the fitness industry. Today, Missett remains CEO of the $100 million company, with more than 8,500 franchises worldwide. (Her daughter, Shanna Missett Nelson, is president.) “There aren’t a lot of women who started a company and are still running it 50 years later—and that company is thriving,” says Missett. --Leigh Buchanan