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Double Take

Twins who own businesses are seeing double--the productivity, that is.

There's no shortage of them in the entertainment industry--Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are perhaps the most famous--or in politics, from the Bush daughters to two 55-year-old brothers in Poland (this past fall, one ran for president of the country, and the other for prime minister). But twin entrepreneurs are also working double duty in the business world.

One of the most successful pairs of identical-twin entrepreneurs is Lisa and Debbie Ganz, 38, who have taken the concept of seeing double and turned it into a mini-empire. They own New York City-based Twins Talent, a talent agency that books only twin, triplet and quadruplet performers, and have placed their clients in films like Big Fish and TV series such as Fear Factor, Guiding Light and Sex and the City. They also have a twin calendar, a photo gift book called The Book of Twins, and the Twins Restaurant, which opened in 1994 but is currently closed with plans to relocate to Times Square. The eatery is famed for staffing only identical twins (meaning if one sibling quits, the other is automatically fired). As for when the restaurant will reopen, Debbie isn't entirely certain: "With all these various projects, we haven't been able to concentrate on opening the restaurant. Unfortunately, my mother had two of us, not four of us."

Perhaps Debbie should rethink that. Chad Baker has found it's confusing enough with just him and his twin brother, Andy. In Nashville, Tennessee, the 26-year-olds own Baker Twin Enterprises, which manufactures and sells the DrinkTower--a unique pitcher they market to bars and restaurants. They also have a customized sign business. Between Drink-Tower and sign sales, the brothers estimate they brought in nearly $1 million in 2005. They also dabble in real estate. "Some people must think we're the biggest jerks," says Chad. "Andy will talk to somebody for 30 minutes. [Later on], that person will make eye contact with me, expecting recognition and, of course, there isn't any."

While navigating the corporate waters with your twin can be confusing, it does have its advantages. "We do a lot of trade shows, so we ham it up," admits Chad, who explains they attend the shows dressed alike.

"It does help at trade shows," agrees Jim Abel, who was born two minutes before his identical brother, Jeff, 37 years ago, and who also makes the most of his birthright. "It's a neat marketing twist. We'll wear the same clothes. It's an attention-getter."

The Abel twins are co-owners of their second business, Ketch-It Co., a Spokane, Washington, firm that brought in $450,000 in 2004 and manufactures Ketch-It, a specialty ball that sells in stores like Sportmart, The Sports Authority and Wal-Mart. Jim notes that they have rarely been misidentified in the business world--though once, when they lived in a small town, a rumor started that Jim was having an affair when then-single Jeff was seen out on the town with a date.

Working with his twin has only had upsides, according to Jim, who explains, "In today's world, you can't always trust people in business dealings. Working with your twin brother is nice because you both have the best interests of the company at heart, and you can always count on each other to get the job done and produce quality work. We've got a great connection, and we balance each other out really well as far as our roles within the company."

Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.

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This article was originally published in the January 2006 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Double Take.

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