Photo by Millo Lin on Unsplash

Four years ago, Chief Financial Officer Alison Stevenson was a tired and overworked 40-year-old who took no time for self-care and had no social life.

Then she discovered Zumba®.

In Alison’s words: ‘Zumba® isn’t just a business for me, it’s a lifeline. A way of life. A celebration of life.’ 

Want to know how you, too, can follow your bliss? Read on & be inspired. 

Corporate look

Ally, how did it all start?

It all started when I began experiencing headaches as a pre-teen. The doctor recommended I take up a hobby, because I ‘worried’ a lot about things that did not concern me as a child. Very quickly, dance became one of my favourite after-school activities, and I got my kicks from clubbing. But although it made me feel good, I didn’t realise the full benefits until I was much older.

What was your lightbulb moment?

The moment I stepped into a Zumba® class, I felt alive. Invigorated! My mind switched off from the constant planning and chatting, which was a refreshing change in my then constantly busy life as a working mum. By the third class I knew I had to be an instructor. I had found my second passion in life, which I hadn’t thought was possible.

Were your start-up costs affordable?

Very affordable, as one only needs to do the initial Zumba® instructor course and have a good portable music system. Hunting for suitable halls to accommodate my class was slightly challenging as I was new in the area, but I had lots of help from the locals and secured two great halls very quickly.

Was your age a hurdle in any way?

All that is in the mind. I’ve seen instructors as young as eighteen and as old as seventy-five. That is the beauty of Zumba®: it is for everyone.

Is your Zumba® business doing so well, you could quit your fulltime job?

Business is great, but I started from scratch and had a lot to learn over time, which has been very exciting at my age. I earn much more than expected from what most people would consider a ‘sideline hustle’ — but I’m only offering classes three times a week in the evenings. My class has been steadily growing, but I have a few more projects on the go, so not quite ready to quit my fulltime job yet. Being a CFO is my first passion after all.

What steps did you take to get your business up and running?

The first thing I did was take a break from fulltime work in order to explore other options for my life. I’d just moved from the UK to South Africa, and having discovered this exciting new dance opportunity, I was very fortunate that the timing was right and I could plunge myself fulltime into Zumba®.

It was amazing learning the ropes of running my own business. I began by visiting various gyms offering my services. Meanwhile, I tended to all the necessary start-up administration, advertising and promotional work.

I started with morning classes only as I thought my target market would be stay-at-home mums. After eight months, however, the numbers levelled out to around ten students per class, so I returned to fulltime work and used my free time to figure out a better plan.

It was disappointing when the classes didn’t increase to the level I’d hoped for. But it helped to get my name out there, and allowed me to secure halls and make decisions as to which slots to offer. I also realised I had a lot to learn in terms of instructing. This was one of the reasons I went back to fulltime employment. Now I only offer evening classes to mostly the working mums, and one Saturday morning session.

Ally grins
Ally grins

Is your Zumba® business doing so well, you could quit your fulltime job?

Business is great, but I started from scratch and had a lot to learn over time, which has been very exciting at my age. I earn much more than expected from what most people would consider a ‘sideline hustle’ — but I’m only offering classes three times a week in the evenings. My class has been steadily growing, but I have a few more projects on the go, so not quite ready to quit my fulltime job yet. Being a CFO is my first passion after all.

What steps did you take to get your business up and running?

The first thing I did was take a break from fulltime work in order to explore other options for my life. I’d just moved from the UK to South Africa, and having discovered this exciting new dance opportunity, I was very fortunate that the timing was right and I could plunge myself fulltime into Zumba®.

It was amazing learning the ropes of running my own business. I began by visiting various gyms offering my services. Meanwhile, I tended to all the necessary start-up administration, advertising and promotional work.

I started with morning classes only as I thought my target market would be stay-at-home mums. After eight months, however, the numbers levelled out to around ten students per class, so I returned to fulltime work and used my free time to figure out a better plan.

It was disappointing when the classes didn’t increase to the level I’d hoped for. But it helped to get my name out there, and allowed me to secure halls and make decisions as to which slots to offer. I also realised I had a lot to learn in terms of instructing. This was one of the reasons I went back to fulltime employment. Now I only offer evening classes to mostly the working mums, and one Saturday morning session.

Fit and fab

Who has been your greatest support?

My husband has been my rock. He is now a homemaker, which allows me the freedom to explore different options for my business and enjoy my various passions. He never questioned when I decided to take a break from work and try new things through the Zumba® business. He helps me achieve my goals and is always on hand when I go on various courses. He supports me with regard to the friendships I form too. And now that I have an online offering, he posts my class on the Zumba.dance platform and distributes it to my regular customers every day.

I also had lots of support from my mum and my sister, especially at the start. They came to every single class despite the fact I had no customers, or sometimes only one or two. And Zumba® has been a great support too. They provide their instructors with enormous resources to start our own business. 

How did COVID-19 affect your Zumba® business?

I was very lucky to have my fulltime job as CFO when the pandemic hit, and I could offer online Zoom and pre-recorded classes. Zumba® was incredibly responsive to our plight as instructors during lockdown. They supported us fully by offering various courses, which enabled us to successfully start up online.

My usual evening class had had a regular attendance of around twenty students. This dropped to five or six per Zoom session. However, I was also able to earn money with pre-recorded classes from students all over the world, which opened up a different demographic. 

Learning how to do online and pre-recorded sessions was exciting. It forced me to focus on mastering new skills, which kept my mind off the negative aspects of the pandemic. I used this time to improve as an instructor by taking all the courses Zumba® offered, as well as connecting with Zumba® instructors all over the world. This would not have happened in the past, and I’m grateful that so many positives came out of the pandemic.

Where do you promote your classes? And how important is word of mouth?

I use Facebook (my Zumba® group has a community of more than 500 people), as well as local advertising groups on Facebook and WhatsApp.

Word of mouth is very important, as someone might bring a friend or cousin or colleague. My class has become a buzz of people having chats before the session starts — a fantastic atmosphere.

Any highlights you’d like to share?

My best moments are when people send me personal messages thanking me for the energy in the class. How my classes helped them through a difficult period, especially during the pandemic. I also love that Zumba® has a lot of social benefits: I’ve made a lot of good friends.

Any lightbulb moments once your business was up and running?

Whether you only have a handful of students or a full class is not important. What is important is that you give the best class possible, as the energy you give off during the session is vital in securing future students. So far, four people who attended my class have become Zumba® instructors.

Have you experienced any big disappointments?

Big ones? None. I am in the business of fun after all. No matter if I have one student or thirty, I love to dance and instruct and will continue to do it as long as I’m having fun.

Zumbalicious
Zumbalicious

Where do you promote your classes? And how important is word of mouth?

I use Facebook (my Zumba® group has a community of more than 500 people), as well as local advertising groups on Facebook and WhatsApp.

Word of mouth is very important, as someone might bring a friend or cousin or colleague. My class has become a buzz of people having chats before the session starts — a fantastic atmosphere.

Any highlights you’d like to share?

My best moments are when people send me personal messages thanking me for the energy in the class. How my classes helped them through a difficult period, especially during the pandemic. I also love that Zumba® has a lot of social benefits: I’ve made a lot of good friends.

Any lightbulb moments once your business was up and running?

Whether you only have a handful of students or a full class is not important. What is important is that you give the best class possible, as the energy you give off during the session is vital in securing future students. So far, four people who attended my class have become Zumba® instructors.

Have you experienced any big disappointments?

Big ones? None. I am in the business of fun after all. No matter if I have one student or thirty, I love to dance and instruct and will continue to do it as long as I’m having fun.

I’d lost what makes me ME — and I didn’t even know it.

Ally and students

How has this addition to your work/life affected you?

It has given me a new lease on life. Before Zumba®, I went to work, came back, helped sort the kids with hubby, sorted the house, watched mindless TV, did the shopping, and so on. As a working mum, I didn’t really have a social life with girlfriends or any strong interests outside of work. I’d lost what makes me me — and I didn’t even know it.

Dancing has always been something that’s given me life — but I didn’t connect the dots that I could teach and get such a kick out of getting fit.
Mentally it helps me switch off, like meditation. When I learn a new song, I’m smiling, even laughing, at the antics of presenters who teach us new choreography. And physically, I am fitter now than I was in my twenties. The energy I used to expend in long working hours is now spent making a difference, helping others have fun and get fit. Learning new music is such fun!

I now make time every day for me and my passions (other than work). You know, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that God places hidden talents within us to find. And it doesn’t matter what age you are; people should expect to find different passions at any age. For example, once I started teaching, out of the blue I discovered another passion: writing poetry. A new pathway in my mind has emerged and I am so grateful. 

My plan is to create a life from which I don’t need a holiday.

Who is your greatest inspiration?

My mum. She had her own businesses over many years while raising seven children mostly on her own. She always encouraged me to do the same. (I wanted the security of working for an employer. Now that I have this, I can explore my own business too. I have the best of both worlds.)

What is the best bit of advice you’ve been given so far?

Your energy in delivering your service is key to making your business successful. And a saying that always applies: Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you are right.

Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Believe in yourself. You have a power within you that is greater than the power out in the world. You can do whatever you set your mind to.

What would you have done differently?

Nothing. Each experience brought me to where I find myself today, which is in a much happier place than when Zumba® was not in my life.

What was your steepest learning curve?

Knowing who my target market was. This was quite a learning curve and at first I felt a bit sad that I could not service the ‘morning class’ market — but seeing the numbers increase much faster in my evening classes has made the change worthwhile.

Do you have any advice to pass on to aspiring Zumba® instructors?

As an instructor I’ve learnt to prepare myself in advance for classes, even when I didn’t have any. I practised and practised almost every day for two, sometimes three, hours. I visited live classes and taught a few songs with fellow instructors. I attended many events and, as I practised, I imagined myself in front of a crowd, teaching the class.
I would say the key is to prepare yourself well — as though you are presenting. When opportunity comes, you will be ready. Stay active in your trade and perfect it while you wait for your opportunity.

What are your future plans?

I am very happy with the size of my business; I plan to gradually increase it over time. However, I am currently finalising my poetry book based on A Course in Miracles. This is helping me grow emotionally and spiritually as a person, which I think is very important when offering this type of service.

I plan to publish this poetry book later this year. I also have another Fitness Instructor course scheduled for the end of this month (Strong Nation — HIIT exercise offered by Zumba®). This fitness course is mainly for my personal development and to ensure my body is toned as I age gracefully. I may offer Strong Nation to my students later this year as well, but I haven’t firmed up that decision yet.

Right now, my plan is to create a life from which I don’t need a holiday. My main focus is balance within my family life while offering one or two more classes during the week.

Anything else you want to add?

I am so grateful for the journey that brought me to Zumba®. It’s not just a business for me: it’s a way of life. A philosophy of being in the business of fun.  Sometimes one forgets how far one has come: from someone who was not interested in any fitness other than walking to now being a dance fitness instructor on my way to level up — and at my age! That’s the bit that makes me so happy.

Ally, thank you so much for sharing your journey with us. What a Zumbalicious Lioness you are!

 

Alison has been a licensed ZUMBA® dance instructor since April 2018. She currently offers several online pre-recorded one-hour or twenty-minute classes (on demand), available 24/7 on www.zumba.dance. (In the search bar, type: Alison.) She also offers live classes in Monte Vista and Goodwood (Cape Town, South Africa).

To get in touch with Alison, pop onto her Facebook group: ZUMBA® with Ally or contact her on tel: +27 65 918 7258 (South Africa).

Tweetable TAKEAWAYS:

YOUR ENERGY IN DELIVERING YOUR SERVICE IS KEY TO MAKING YOUR BUSINESS SUCCESSFUL.

DANCE FOR YOUR HEALTH!

WORK YOUR PASSION. FOLLOW YOUR BLISS.

CREATE A LIFE FROM WHICH YOU WON’T WANT A HOLIDAY.

MAKE TIME DAILY FOR YOURSELF.

WANT A HEALTHY LIFE? FOLLOW YOUR BLISS!

WE ALL HAVE AN ABUNDANCE OF TALENTS. OUR JOB IS TO FIND THEM.

Just so you know…

I don’t receive any reward or commission for promoting any of the people or businesses on my blog. I just want to inspire & motivate as many people as possible to fulfil their purpose & potential.

 

If any other key points stood out for you, or you just want to let me know what you thought about this interview, feel free to comment below.

NEXT WEEK on The Hopeaholic blog. . .

A Power Couple who just won’t quit! From cancer victim to victor — a walking miracle. Impossible is not in this couple’s dictionary.

Inspiration, motivation, hope. You’ll find it all here.

If you subscribe to my weekly news blurb (it’s brief, honest!) you’ll be in the know. wink

2 Comments

  1. Melanie Hatjigiannakis

    Reading this article literally made me want to start dancing. What a wonderful heartwarming read! So great to see women following their passions. Definitely like the line, “CREATE A LIFE FROM WHICH YOU WON’T WANT A HOLIDAY.”

    Loved the read 🥰

    Reply
    • Vanessa Stevenson

      I know, right? Alison certainly is inspiring. Thank you for your lovely comment, Melanie! xx

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Did you enjoy my blog? Please Share the Sunshine. 🙂