Woman-Owned Small Family Business, Academic Entertainment, Transitions Leadership to the Second Generation

PULLMAN, Wash.—In a world where the current small business failure rate is up to 65% within 10 years (*US Bureau of Labor Statistics), woman-owned family business, Academic Entertainment, Inc. has survived, grown, and thrived.

Incorporated in 1997, Academic Entertainment began as a single mom with a phone book and a fax machine.  Current owner, Gina Jamison, started the business in the mid-1990s representing one artist based in Los Angeles. Without the assistance of the internet, social media, and widespread use of email, Gina started cold calling school principals in the State of California.  Gina recalls, “I had just $2,000 in my savings account and I knew if I could just get two weeks of shows booked that first fall, we would survive,” Gina’s story is one of dogged determination, persistence, perseverance and good old-fashioned grit. She is an entrepreneur in every sense of the word.

Over the years, Academic Entertainment grew from representing one artist to today managing more than 20 individual artists that present more than 40 unique school assembly programs, in-person and online, nationwide. The company is now one of the country’s premier providers of youth and educational entertainment.

Though based in the state of Washington, Academic Entertainment acts as a booking and talent agency for independent performing artists nationwide. Their most popular states where assembly for schools occurs is California, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. Their primary customer base includes K-12 schools and summer camps, but they also work with many types of youth-serving organizations, non-profits, and even private companies for special events, such as Take Your Child to Work Day.

After more than 25 years working in the educational entertainment industry, Gina will be fully retiring and transitioning ownership to her oldest daughter, Whitney Mueller, MBA, within the next 6-12 months. Whitney remembers. “It seems like I have always worked in the business in at least some capacity since I was in elementary school. I used to stuff envelopes with brochures and stick stamps and mailing labels on them while I was watching TV.”  Whitney also worked for the company part time throughout high school and college, doing everything from invoicing to marketing.

Whitney has been with Academic Entertainment full time since 2015.  She graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelors Communications from the Murrow College of Communication and the Honors College at Washington State University in 2008 and a Masters of Business Administration from the Carson College at Washington State University in 2009.  Whitney’s previous professional experience was with Inland Northwest Broadcasting in Moscow, Idaho from 2009 to 2015 where she was a director of sales and marketing.

Academic Entertainment is truly a family business.  Whitney’s father, and Gina’s ex-husband since 1993, Brad Mueller, started working with Academic Entertainment in 2005.  “Gina was so busy, she asked me to come work for her and get off the road.” Brad said.  Prior to that, Brad’s sales experience was through his work as a journeyman and master plumber. “And now, my daughter is my boss,” Brad jokes.

Academic Entertainment is a certified woman-owned business enterprise through the state of Washington. They employ one other female, Leslie Stamper, as their Business Administrator.  Leslie has worked with Academic Entertainment since 2021. “I love being able to work with my family and now my best friend,” Whitney said.

Academic Entertainment’s talent roster also includes five woman-led or woman-only artist groups. “Something we have really focused on the last few years when adding new talent to represent is female-led programs, as well as programs featuring people of color.” Whitney said.  “We’ve always been about promoting education through quality entertainment. Our mission is to make learning fun. Students are best engaged and motivated when they see and hear from people that look like them.”

As a private corporation, the official transition of ownership of Academic Entertainment from Gina to Whitney will occur technically through a simple sale transfer of a single share of stock.

In her retirement, Gina is looking forward to spending more time pursuing her passions including spending time with her family, running, hiking, and cooking as well as continuing to volunteer with the Board of Directors for Eastside Preparatory Academy in Kirkland, Wash.

What’s next for Academic Entertainment? Right now, the company is now scheduling school assemblies for the upcoming 2024/2025 school year.

*According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), about 20% of new businesses fail within their first two years, 45% within five years, and 65% within 10 years. Only 25% of new businesses make it to 15 years or more.

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