Malik Harding, 8 years old, is a lover of animals, nature, and art. He’s a second grader from Medford, MA who goes to school at Fayerweather Street School in Cambridge MA. Malik is not your average 8-year-old. He founded the “Activism Club” at his school with his friend Antonia where they lead other K-4th graders every Friday though different issues relating to racial and climate justice. He loves to paint landscapes and is constantly creating new ideas for games, books, and characters.

 

 

When the pandemic hit, Malik’s world was turned upside down over night. He had relied on his school community for his creative outlets like art class, wood shop, and singing in the chorus. Suddenly these activities were gone. He had trouble sleeping and would burst into tears when he saw his favorite teachers on Zoom. Malik’s parents were worried about his wellbeing as he was always such a happy kid. One of his favorite teacher’s, Tracey, helped guide him through those hard times. 

 

One way Tracey helped was to have him focus on a game he had been creating in his newfound downtime. He had been designing and drawing playing cards based on one of his favorite foods, tacos. Tracey encouraged Malik’s parents to have him continue this home project to give him something to focus on. Malik was excited to use his creativity and began to figure out the points and rules for the game. He played the game with his dad and brother often and they figured out how to make the game more fun, simplify the rules, and how many cards were needed for each set. His mom helped him convert his art in Photoshop and send it to a local printer who produced the cards for the game. 

 

 

Malik didn’t plan to start a business. At first his idea was that he would give Taco Chef to his classmates as an end-of-year gift since he hadn’t seen them in so many months. His classmates loved it. But when his mom posted a picture of the class gift on her Facebook page, people began asking if they could purchase one! So, Malik improved the packaging and began selling the game as a fundraiser for his favorite charity, World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Malik kept track of all the sales and donations, his parents took care of getting the cards printed, and Malik took care of packing everything with help from his older brother Marcus, while his dad took care of the deliveries. Malik raised $330 to donate to the WWF and sold the remaining inventory of Taco Chef. 

 

After that, one of Malik’s friends posted a review of the game and suggested to a local gift shop that they begin selling it. The gift shop, 4GoodVibes, agreed and started selling it at their locations in Medford and Somerville. Malik was so excited! Malik was even featured in the local news for his art skills and his game, Taco Chef. Once his game was featured on the news, his family had to get to work quickly to produce more games to keep up with the new demand. Malik ended up making $2,000 from his game sales at the gift shop that month. The shop owners said it was the single most ordered item they have ever sold. He donated 10% of these sales to the WWF, who in turn sent him 2 stuffed animals representing a symbolic adoption of a snow leopard and a zebra. 

 

 

Despite his early success, Malik’s entrepreneurship journey has not come without difficulties. When he invented the game he didn’t realize that there are many other taco and burrito games on the market, making Taco Chef difficult to license. Malik didn’t let that stop him. In order to continue to improve upon his game,  Malik’s parents sent it to a representative at a manufacturer for feedback. Malik is incorporating their advice and is also working on a very similar game with a different theme, ICE CREAM! He plans to have the Ice Cream game, Scoopadees, ready to sell this summer and his goal is to get it into local ice cream shops. 

 

However, Malik has no plans to phase out Taco chef. He will continue selling it at the gift shop and even wants to create a website for it. Malik’s ultimate goal would be for one of his games to be recognized and loved by a wide audience. He also has big goals to get it licensed and sold by a major game manufacturer or distributor (so he doesn’t have to assemble hundreds of boxes with his brother after school!). 

 

Malik has inspired other kids in his community to follow in his footsteps and create their own games. His advice to other young entrepreneurs: "If you have the idea and you think it's too hard just start doing it and see what it turns into!”