Teens take up quirky, creative pandemic projects

When virtual school becomes tedious and lockdowns cause monotony, these two Ottawa teens chose to get creative with their extra time.

From running a niche thrifting business to trading up to a Tesla

Ali Neustaedter, left, and Lachlan McCurdy, right, each have their own unique pandemic projects to help pass time. (Submitted by Ali Neustaedter and Lachlan McCurdy)

With more time on their hands thanks to repetitive lockdowns and the monotony of virtual school, some Ottawa teens have decided to get creative with pandemic projects.

For 14-year-old Lachlan McCurdy, it all started last September with a Pokemon card.

"Quarantine was feeling very, very dry," he said. "Like nothing was happening."

McCurdy turned to TikTok, where he came across a video of someone who'd traded their way up to a house starting with a red paper clip — a social experiment that's been going on in various forms for more than a decade. 

Inspired, McCurdy picked up some cards and began his own journey — but for a Tesla by the time he's 16 years old.

"I feel like a car will also be very efficient to getting to high school when I'm old enough to drive, and for long road trips to see my family in Burlington," said McCurdy. 

McCurdy holds up his latest trade: an Elgato capture card HD60 used to capture game play and transfer videos. (Submitted by Lachlan McCurdy)

McCurdy first traded for an old pair of Bose headphones, then a Nintendo console, then a robot Roomba vacuum. Most recently McCurdy managed to trade for an Elgato capture card HD60, which is used to capture game play and transfer videos. 

"It was a very surprisingly quick journey," he said.

The project, he said, is a good distraction from being at home all the time.

"I wanted to not spend too too much time on video games," he said. "Even though it's not like with my friends that I'm trading with, it's still something social because people are texting me ... and we'd meet up and trade."

McCurdy has also taken up creating video game song content on his own TikTok channel, and prides himself in creating a few viral videos — some that have gotten millions of views.

"He's a really creative kid, and he needs to have stimulation. And that's what's really been lost right now," said his mother, Katrina Barclay.

As for his viral TikTok videos, Barclay said McCurdy has found his niche. 

"That's been keeping him really busy and happy during these pandemic days," she said.

Young entrepreneur turns to equestrian thrifting

A few months before the pandemic, 14-year-old Ali Neustaedter had an idea to start an equestrian thrifting business.

"It actually just kind of morphed into a business. I was just selling my old things, and then I just started buying and reselling," said Neustaedter, who's three years into being a competitive equestrian rider. 

It's keeping me occupied. It's a great way to spend my time.- Ali Neustaedter

When the lockdowns began, Neustaedter began seriously building up her business, creating websites, social media accounts, setting up contactless payments, and started shipping worldwide.

Her business, The Thrifty Equine, is a consignment shop for affordable products in the riding world.

"I had stuff I didn't need anymore, but at the same time, I know how expensive the sport is," she said. "It needs to be more affordable."

Ali Neustaedter competing. She's the owner of The Thrifty Equine, an online consignment store for all things riding. (Submitted by Ali Neustaedter)

Previously, Neustaedter played basketball during her free time. But as she finds herself at home more and more, her business has kept her busy all day.

She responds to clients' messages during lunch. After school, she does all of her administrative, marketing, and shipping work.

Her extra cash will help pay for her expensive riding lessons, she said, and the costs to lease her horse.

"It's keeping me occupied. It's a great way to spend my time," Neustaedter said. "[Otherwise] I'd probably just be scrolling way too much."

"It's been great. I've definitely grown throughout the pandemic."

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