Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are almost as ubiquitous as their number-one apparel customer, Wal-Mart. How did ex-TV stars with little singing or dancing talent take over 'tween girls' minds? It all started with a music video, of course.Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are almost as ubiquitous as their number-one apparel customer, Wal-Mart. How did ex-TV stars with little singing or dancing talent take over 'tween girls' minds? It all started with a music video, of course.
Pardon me for doubting that Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are really twins as opposed to, say, octuplets. They are, somehow all at once, the world's richest teens, the soon-to-be-co-CEOs of a $1 billion self-branding empire, owners of America's best-selling girls' videos, its most popular girls' video games, biggest celebrity doll line, top girls' book franchise, and a line of apparel, accessories, cosmetics, and home furnishings sold in Wal-Mart. Toss in the fact that they produced and star in a full-length feature film (New York Minute) now in theaters, and are preparing to start at New York University in the fall, and it seems a whole slumber party of stunt doubles would be hard-pressed to play their roles.

But the infant actresses of the TV sitcom Full House have truly grown up to be what amounts to queens of a far-flung, many-tentacled business realm. "It is a full-blown empire," in the words of Martin Brochstein, long-time editor of the New York-based Licensing Letter. "I don't think that's overstating the case."

You won't find many who will admit to overstating the case when it comes to Mary-Kate and Ashley's business achievements. "I've been in licensing for 22 years, and I've never been involved in something like this," says Michael Stone, corporate executive vice president of the Beanstalk Group, a New York licensing agent that represents Mary-Kate and Ashley's many branded products, as well as the likes of Coke, Ford, Harley-Davidson, and AT&T among past and present clients.