Recorded June 15, 2021.
Anyone who has bought a toy in the past three decades is likely familiar with the toy brand Melissa & Doug. Their line of classic, wholesome, and non-digital toys has been sparking kids’ imaginations since Melissa and Doug Bernstein first launched the company in their Connecticut basement 33 years ago. Today – the business that began as a small New England-based children’s video company – is now an international toy empire with annual revenue of $500 million dollars.
Melissa, the “chief toy designer,” estimates that she has designed more than 6,000 of the company’s products – a new one every day-and-a-half on average. Although, even as she brought so much joy to millions of children while raising her own six kids, Melissa was secretly battling a dark, existential depression that led to eating disorders and thoughts of suicide over the years. Melissa is now opening up about her difficult battle in a new memoir called LifeLines: An Inspirational Journey From Profound Darkness to Radiant Light. She and her husband Doug have also launched Lifelines, a free resource for people struggling with mental health that features a podcast series, webinars and an online community.
In this inspirational Founder Stories session, Melissa talks about how she and Doug built their toy brand from the ground up, how they scaled the business and what is next. She also talks about how she built her company while secretly battling a mental illness, plus how she was finally able to obtain a diagnosis, treatment and ultimately, hope.
About Melissa Bernstein
Melissa Bernstein, along with her husband Doug, is the Co-Founder of the toy company Melissa & Doug, which has created over 5,000 children’s products and sold billions of dollars of toys since its inception. Raised by educators, Melissa and Doug started the business in their garage in 1988, and they’ve been on a mission ever since to provide open-ended, inventive, non-technology playthings for young children. Throughout Melissa’s remarkable career, she kept secret her lifelong battle with severe depression and anxiety. She reveals her struggles in LifeLines, her first book, which she wrote to help others who are also suffering. Melissa’s book heralds the launch of LifeLines.com, an online ecosystem she and Doug are underwriting to support those seeking support, guidance, and community on their mental health journeys. Melissa lives in Connecticut with Doug and their six children.