*Melissa & Doug founder Melissa Bernstein is in Durham this week for Duke Entrepreneurship Week and to inspire female entrepreneurs at Friday afternoon’s SOAR event. You can still sign up for that here.

Earlier this year, Melissa and Doug Bernstein (known for their beloved toy company) invited 12 promising Duke undergraduates into their year-long entrepreneurship program. Melissa & Doug Entrepreneurs is a relatively new opportunity for students at the university to receive personalized mentorship from renowned experts, partake in skill-building workshops, and critically reflect on their experiences. Participants also obtain a $5,000 stipend to work on their ventures or intern at a startup over the summer.

During spring break, the selected students travelled to the Melissa & Doug headquarters in Connecticut, where they received direct advice and training from the Bernsteins. Melissa Bernstein graduated from Duke in 1987. She and her husband created the program to inspire young adults to harness their talents and passions and create meaningful impact through entrepreneurship. Students also partnered with mentors in fields related to their startup ideas.

Program Director Howie Rhee (a Fuqua 2004 graduate), who is also the managing director at the Duke Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative, describes the program as “an amazing opportunity for undergraduates to dive into the field of entrepreneurship for an entire year.” 

“We’re thrilled about how well the program has gone in its first year, and we’re looking forward to the upcoming round of applicants,” Rhee says. The applications for the 2015 class of Melissa & Doug Entrepreneurs will open in December.

To see what participants thought of the program, we reached out to some of the 2014 Melissa & Doug Entrepreneurs. Here’s what they had to say.


Do you feel like your class of entrepreneurs was diverse, and if so, how?

“I definitely feel like our group was diverse, we had people all over the country working on really cool ventures; everything from custom drone technology for farmers to healthy vegan dessert donuts. I really enjoyed following everyone’s progress and watching these different businesses develop over the summer.” 

Davis Gossage of CrowdTunes, a mobile platform for patrons to vote for what music they want to hear in venues, bars and restaurants.

The 12 Melissa & Doug Entrepreneurs will be presenting their progress and experiences at an upcoming Demo Day on campus. Admission is free and open to the public. To find out more information about the upcoming event or ask general questions about the program, contact Howie Rhee at [email protected]