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Melissa & Doug Entrepreneurs


Want to start a great company? Be a part of an amazing, hands-on program building your own startup with Melissa & Doug Entrepreneurs, the advanced track of Duke I&E’s Student Founder Program. Melissa & Doug is an invitation-only program designed for students in the Student Founder Program who are ready to launch their own ventures.

Melissa & Doug Bernstein are lifelong entrepreneurs who have been in business for 30 years, have created over 2,000 proprietary products, and have sold over a billion dollars in toys!

Melissa & Doug Entrepreneurs is a year-long intensive fellowship program at Duke in which undergraduate students create their own great startup. The program exists to give startup teams the support they need to quickly and effectively create their company. Melissa & Doug Entrepreneurs is ideal for students who have a specific startup idea and want to spend the next year launching their company, with a goal of continuing to grow and run that startup in the future.

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Along with working with a dedicated group of mentors for the year, students attend workshops, enjoy VIP access to visiting speakers, and gain insight from experts with real-world knowledge.


During the summer, a stipend allows students to fully focus on their own ventures.

Melissa & Doug

Melissa and Doug Bernstein personally assist students with the support, encouragement, and network opportunities they need to help turn their creative ideas into promising ventures.


About Melissa & Doug Bernstein

Melissa Bernstein, an ’87 Duke alumna, and Doug Bernstein co-founded Melissa & Doug in 1988. What began as a business selling children’s educational videotapes has grown into a hugely popular toy company. Melissa and Doug are passionate about sharing their experience and helping students advance their futures through entrepreneurship.

Howie Rhee headshot

Howie Rhee ’04

Howie is the program director of Melissa & Doug Entrepreneurs. He works closely with both Melissa and Doug to create and run each aspect of the Melissa & Doug Entrepreneurs program, to make this the best undergraduate entrepreneurship program around! The goal for each student is to make their experience as rich as possible. Students in the program touch base with Howie on a weekly basis throughout the duration of the program.

Steven McClelland

Steve McClelland E’95

Steve, who works on Duke undergraduate entrepreneurship, first got involved in startups when he co-founded a Boston-based, internet consulting company in 1995. In 2004, he moved to San Francisco and joined a second startup, Citizen Sports, where he served in many roles. When Citizen Sports was acquired by Yahoo! in 2010, Steve served as VP of product management focused on content and personalization. Steve joined Twitter in 2016 as a Director of Product Management, managing product management teams in on-boarding, native and web clients, and publishing platforms.

Katherine Black headshot

Katherine Black

Katherine is responsible for assisting in the planning and management of educational and co-curricular undergraduate and graduate student programs in social innovation and social entrepreneurship at Duke I&E. This includes providing coaching and support to student organizations and social impact ventures, leading Duke’s participation in the Clinton Global Initiative University program, helping lead Duke’s participation in the Ashoka U Changemaker Campus Consortium, planning and running both large and small-scale events, sourcing and cultivating community partner relationships, as well as managing and co-leading the DukeEngage Detroit summer program, which she co-founded.

Amy Linnane headshot

Amy Linnane

Amy Linnane is the Managing Director, Experiential Programs for Duke I&E.  She runs the Innovate Duke Program, the Summer Accelerator, and assists with many I&E programs. Prior to joining I&E, Amy was the Director at Launch, a Business Accelerator located in Chapel Hill funded by a partnership between UNC, the Town of Chapel Hill, and Orange County to help local entrepreneurs grow and scale their businesses.  She created a summer accelerator for student teams, new programming for Launch alumni, and helped over 50 ventures during her tenure.  Before running Launch, Amy completed the program as part of her startup, FeedStation.

Alumni Stories

Ivonna Dumanyan '16

Co-founder of Fathom, a wearable device that uses artificial intelligence and biosensors to prevent injuries in elite athletes

Ivonna and her partner wanted to make preventable athletic injury a thing of the past.

She and her partner, Gabrielle Levac ’14, didn’t know how to write code or engineer wearable tech devices, but they knew athletes needed a better way to prevent injury, reduce risk and improve form. Staying focused on their vision of a wearable device that could measure all metrics of an athlete’s form, they founded Fathom.

Working tirelessly in Duke’s Innovation Co-Lab and other departments across campus, Ivonna was able to access the expertise she needed — from mechanical and computer engineering to prototype development and testing. She encourages other students to explore all Duke has to offer. “We’re not in a box, we’re in a fluid system where the exchange of ideas and talents is free-flowing.”

Ivonna and her team have won prizes and recognition from some of the biggest names in tech. Ivonna was awarded the Thiel Fellowship, her team won first place in the 2016 ACC Inventure Prize, and Fathom received recognition from Google and Microsoft as a notable startup. Today, Ivonna and her team have raised funds to bring the product to athletic programs across the country.

Josh Miller '16

Founder of FarmShots, which analyzes satellite and drone imagery of crops to improve farm performance and reduce fertilizer and pesticide use

Farming is all about what happens on the ground, but Josh saw a better way to do it from the sky.

While Josh was in the Melissa & Doug Entrepreneurs program, he was inspired to put his electrical engineering and computer science majors to work in the agricultural field. He began envisioning a way that computer code could positively impact crops.

Today, his company, FarmShots—acquired by Syngenta in 2018—analyzes satellite and drone imagery of farms to identify diseases, pests, and poor nutrition, reduce fertilizer application, and optimize farm production. Along with developing the technology, his team spent hours meeting with mentors, talking with investors, and transforming FarmShots from a great idea into a real business.

For Josh, FarmShots is more than a business opportunity — it’s a chance to change the world. “By 2050, the food production in the entire world is going to have to increase by 70 percent,” he says. ”The only way to keep pushing that limit of yield per acre is through application of technology.”

Suhani Jalota '16

Founder of Myna Mahila Foundation, which employs women in Mumbai’s slums to produce local feminine hygiene products

After four years working in slums in Mumbai, India, Suhani knew she wanted to make a bigger difference.

Her startup, the Myna Mahila Foundation, is based on her passion for creating employment opportunities for women and empowering women by increasing access to needed feminine hygiene products. The foundation is a network of female entrepreneurs who produce and sell high-quality, low-cost sanitary and maternity pads. In fact, Myna has a factory in a slum-redeveloped colony, currently employing 20 women, helping improve the economic health of the area as well.

Turning her vision into a reality wasn’t easy. “I always had these ideas, but solely focused on creating social impact. Initially, I hadn’t even thought about our business model at all,” says Suhani.

Her efforts gained the attention of Glamour Magazine, which named her one of their 2016 College Women of the Year. The honor included a $20,000 prize, which she used to expand the foundation throughout India and around the world.

Kasper Kubica '17

Co-founder of Carpe Lotion, an antiperspirant for sweaty hands and feet

Where others saw an inconvenience, Kasper saw an opportunity.

He co-founded Carpe Lotion because he realized sweaty hands were more than a nuisance — they were a bad first impression, lost opportunity, or missed shot at the buzzer. He also realized that there were no products addressing this common need.

It took more than 50 prototypes before the innovative antiperspirant hand lotion was launched. “I think you get a few chances in your life where you see a real opportunity to solve a problem, a real opportunity to make a change,” Kasper says.”That’s what I saw with this.”

After receiving $100,000 in funding from Durham investment firm Bootstrap Advisors, the team took the product to market. Today, Carpe Lotion is available at nizagara pharmacies, men’s clothing stores, athletic stores, retail outlets, and Amazon.

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