OK, once is not enough. Lots of serial entrepreneurs, who spawn one company after the next, swear it. But two start-ups at the same time? Daniel Slater thinks he's doubling his chances.

A year ago the Australian entrepreneur was developing a mini entertainment system for his fledgling company, Wessex, in Rolling Meadows, Ill. He hoped to market his six-inch, four-channel television systems to restaurants, airports, and hospitals -- "anywhere you have to sit and wait," he says. For programming on one channel, he licensed cartoons. They were easy to get and cheap.

Then, watching a parent scold a bored child in a shopping mall one day, Slater thought, Wouldn't it be great if malls had little theaters where kids could watch cartoons? Well, he already had the cartoons. American Cartoon Theaters, a chain of kiddie movie houses now in suburban Chicago and Phoenix, was born.

Slater's animated adventures soon helped his other company come to life. Although financing two start-ups has "not been easy," -- he's run both with the same staff, out of the same offices -- Slater says capital is the reason he's kept them separate. He's banking on SBA funds to expand American Cartoon Theaters (because it provides child care) and a national rollout by Pizza Hut to finance Wessex.

Slater figures he's improved his odds with twin start-ups. "We sort of have two horses in the race," he says. "We've got to win with one of them."

-- Anne Murphy