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Celebrating Women: Shanna Missett Nelson

Like a good dancer, the Jazzercise president has mastered her balance—of career, family, and life


Shanna Missett Nelson | Photo: Jenny Siegwart

How did you start working at Jazzercise?

I never thought I would be in the company. I was studying English lit and journalism at the University of Arizona and didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I went through Jazzercise training and started teaching it in 1987, while still in college. After my junior year, I took a year off and went to Tokyo to train other instructors and help them set up their business practices. We now have about 700 instructors in Japan. I went back to Tucson and finished college, then came back to San Diego. I now have 30 years as an instructor and 27 years working for the company.

Your mother, Judi, is the company founder. What’s it like working in a large family business?

It’s worked very well, because I’ve had a definite direction and gone down a different path and had separate interests. And it’s not entirely a family business—my brother chose not to work at Jazzercise.

What does your job as president entail?

I’m part of the management team, which sets goals and direction for the company. I’m in charge of a lot of creative, and I run our Oceanside and Carlsbad dance studios.

How do you balance family and career?

I’m fortunate to have a job that allows me to be a working mom with a stay-at-home schedule. I’m able to take my daughters to their dance studio and participate in their field trips and school events. My girls grew up in the babysitting room at Jazzercise and now they think they want to teach. It is definitely difficult and you have to pay a price. I tell others that if it feels hard and you’re exhausted, you’re probably doing a really good job.

I tell others that if it feels hard and you’re exhausted, you’re probably doing a really good job.

Who were your role models?

I was blessed by growing up around women in the business. My role models were successful women—either instructors or executives within the company. I never thought there was anything I couldn’t do.

What do you do to mentor others?

I always try to be a role model to the younger women coming up. We sponsor dance teams in Carlsbad, and I like to bring them in to educate them about the business of dance. I love to find new talent and help them grow. Something I’m good at is seeing people blossom. It’s one of the things that fills my cup up in a different way than other parts of my job.

The fitness industry is huge. How do you compete?

We’re one of the oldest fitness companies, so we have to let people know we’re still around. We constantly create new programs to stay on the cutting edge of exercise.

What do you do outside of work?

Our home seems to have become the gathering place for all kids. We love spending time at home. When there’s time, we do like to travel.

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