Exercise enthusiasts have embraced the craze for Latin-inspired Zumba dance classes, an exhilarating blend of hot music and moves that guarantees slimmer waistlines for millions. Charlotte entrepreneur Katie Hughes is riding the wave of Zumba mania with a new product to hook beginners.
While teaching Zumba in college, Katie could predict who would complain of knee pain based on their shoes. But she couldn’t convince beginners to buy proper togs – they would rather drop the class than spend money.
Enter Slip-On Dancers, Katie’s novel solution to eliminate knee pain for dancers. A simple blend of ribbon and elastic, these inexpensive bands fit over any exercise shoe and provide cushion and glide to make dancing more fun, with less stress on knees and ankles. As demand for the bands grew, Katie protected her idea with a provisional patent.
Looking to expand, Katie approached the headquarters for Zumba Fitness and suggested a licensing agreement. From the view of this global powerhouse, the product was unproven. Zumba suggested she sponsor their upcoming national convention, and prove herself.
Undaunted, Katie took the challenge. For less than $6,000 she sponsored the conference, set up a website, created marketing brochures, paid for travel and stocked her inventory. Over four days the lines backed up at her convention booth, as swarms of the 3,000 instructors scrambled to buy the bands. By the convention’s end, Katie had sold 1,000 Slip-On Dancers. Case closed – she had a winner.
Zumba bit and established a licensing agreement with Katie. In addition, Zumba carries ads for the product in Z-Life Magazine and has white labeled a similar ‘traction modifier’ for shoes, for which Katie receives royalties based on her patent.
The turning point for Slip-On Dancers is how to keep a growth trajectory after the rush of the national partnership with Zumba Fitness. Katie can sit back and enjoy her royalty checks, and simply move on to her next adventures, such as writing a chapter for Women Who Mean Business and pursuing her consulting practice.
But Katie is just getting started with possibilities for Slip-On Dancers. Amazon is packaging her bands with Zumba videos, she is designing new styles for kids, and building relationships with distributors across the United States and Europe.
She has a big potential market, and a disruptive product for footwear. Keep slipping-on, dancer!