Melissa Bernstein

Melissa is perhaps best known for creating her eponymous toy company, Melissa & Doug, with her husband Doug in 1988 ( What began in a Connecticut garage with a passion to bring innovative, open-ended toys to children around the world, turned into the leading US pre-school brand of toys, with over 30 straight years of growth. Over three decades, Melissa conceived and brought to life over 5,000 toys. This past month, she and her husband Doug completed the sale of their toy company to a publicly traded children’s entertainment company for $1 billion dollars. 

For many, the sale of a venture would signal the beginning of retirement, but not for Melissa and Doug. In 2021, as they were mapping transition plans from their toy company, the pair began their second venture together, Lifelines, LLC ( Lifelines is creating innovative well-being tools for adults, debuting over 40 patent-pending products in fall 2023 at leading retailers including Target, CVS, Kohls, Macys, and Amazon.

  Melissa likes to say her “first baby” was Melissa & Doug, but she is also the very proud mother of 6 other “babies,” aged 30 to 16, including two Duke alums and a current Duke sophomore. 

Melissa is a bonafide Dukie (T‘87) and bleeds completely blue. She served on the Trinity Board for four years and has chaired Duke’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship Board of Advisors for the past 6 years, where she helped launch the I&E Certificate program, already the #2 certificate at Duke. Melissa is especially proud of the accelerator program she and her husband created nearly 10 years ago, Melissa & Doug Entrepreneurs. In addition to sponsoring this program, Melissa and Doug have invested hundreds of hours personally mentoring over 80 aspiring student entrepreneurs at Duke, students who have created businesses which in aggregate have exited for over $100 million since the program’s inception. One of those students, Max Stern, is currently teaching a New Ventures course at Fuqua. 

When invited to be a candidate for the Board of Trustees, Melissa exclaimed, “This is a dream come true! Nothing would grant me more joy and meaning than serving this great institution at a heightened level of commitment for many years to come.”

Melissa currently serves on the External Engagement Committee.

July 2024