ACI Case Studies Blog Featured Image - Rauni Higson

From riding the rollercoaster to piloting the plane—how one artist brought joy and financial stability back to her business

The Autonomous Creative Incubator

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    Listen to Rauni’s story in her own words:

    Rauni Higson is a silversmith based in Snowdonia: a picturesque, mountainous region in North Wales.

    She began her work as a silversmith 25 years ago, and until joining the Autonomous Creative Incubator, focused primarily on commissioned large-scale silver objects, primarily for commemoration or celebration.

    Rauni explained that although these large-scale pieces are a joy for her, creating them is extremely time-consuming, and involves intense physical labor. Many projects also have inflexible timelines as they are commissioned for events occurring on a specific date. 

    It was not uncommon for Rauni to work on two commissions simultaneously, but this put her under a great deal of time pressure and risked physical injury and mental exhaustion. However, working on just one commission at a time risked a time gap between commissions—and an accompanying gap in income.

    For years she knew that she needed to do something different with her business model—something that would reduce the pressure and preserve the joy of her work.

    “I was really looking to find a way of gaining a measure of control over how things ran in my business and how I could feel less like I was in a nutcracker or something—like I was about to go pop”

    “I was looking to figure out a way of working that could . . . give me a measure of more control, perhaps more financial security. I wanted to feel like I was not just on a roller coaster, but that I was driving. I knew there must be a way.”

    Rauni at work

    Rauni had a clear goal: to create a business model that would even out her income to allow her to work on one large-scale project at a time.

    These projects are her passion; she loves the technical and design challenges that each project presents, as well as the creation process itself.

    But she knows that continuing to work on multiple large-scale projects simultaneously is a recipe for burnout. 

    And after 25 years as a silversmith, Rauni was ready to start seeing the rewards of her intense preparation. 

    I’m 52. This is my prime. And if it’s not feeling like my prime, I’ve got to sort it out.

    I’m not an apprentice anymore. I’m not a newbie. Now I need to be in a situation where I’m getting rewarded for my skills. I’ve put in the hours. I’ve put in more hours than most people ever do. And I’m not getting underpaid anymore.

    Also, there are so many amazing things and interesting things I want to do in my life as well as just work. I have been throwing so much of myself into developing my work and developing my career. And maybe giving a little bit too much of myself, sometimes. I wanted to have a bit more for myself, and live my life, and feel like it was all really worth it.

    Although Rauni could see her goal, she couldn’t see the path to make it there.

    When she read about the Incubator, she recognized that this was the path she had been looking for.

    Finding Her People

    Rauni felt energized from the moment she began the program: “The Jumpstart Weekend was absolutely my favorite. I was just so energized. I was just like, ‘these are my people.’ “

    She knew from our previous work together that she would benefit from my coaching in the program, but what she didn’t anticipate was the energy, power, and support of the group.

    “My favorite thing about the Incubator was the cohort—the group—and the supportive container that it provided with some really extraordinary humans. 

    […]

    [This included] the support of the team, obviously, and Jessica, but the people in the group…the whole thing just seemed like a very safe space and a very supportive and developmental melting pot.”

    As Rauni worked through the program, the group provided her with knowledge, support, and insight.

    “It felt incredibly supportive. Not only to be able to share when things weren’t going well, but to be able to share when things turned out positively, and really feeling—in a totally non-cheesy way—that there was this amazing gang of supportive cheerleaders…who were genuinely on the same journey and therefore sharing the joy of things working out, and the discoveries. 

    And I also loved the incredibly high level of critical thinking, which turbocharged any sort of ‘Oh, I’m kind of thinking about this.’ And the next thing you know, you’ve got five voices chipping in, and you go, ‘Oh my God, that is genius.'”

    Through her work in the Incubator program, Rauni was able to make progress that had eluded her for years when she had tried to achieve it on her own.

    “It’s gotta be the group, and the safe space that the group provided . . . [you felt like you were] starting from a little vulnerable seed…

    I mean, it’s an incubator, like a seed in a propagator. That’s how it felt.

    Not like a seed on the windy mountainside that might just get blown away.”

    After years of learning business “…on the hoof, and probably made every mistake that you could possibly make, and learnt from some of them and made some of them two or three times over,” Rauni yearned for a more strategic approach. Strategy does not come naturally to her, she says, because she likes “doing what pleases me and I can be very impulsive.” That impulsivity led to excitement, but also a lot of overwork. 

    “I can get myself in all kinds of trouble by saying yes to things. When someone says, ‘Is this possible?’ It’s taken me years to understand that the answer to that is not ‘yes,’ [just] because it’s not impossible.”

    The Incubator helped her understand that she needed to shift from asking herself “is it’s possible?” to asking herself “is it a good idea?”

    She now I asks that question a lot more.

    This simple change put her in the driver’s seat.

    Designing her business around her reality 

    In the process of reformulating her business plan, she began to make decisions with an intent to bring intro fruition the reality she had been chasing for so long.

    “The idea of designing a business around my reality has been huge. My reality being: how much energy I’ve got, how much money I need, what kind of time I’ve got available. How can I work in a sustainable way? And I mean mostly physically sustainable, so as not to break my body.

    Designing the business around my reality and (giving myself) the permission to design a business around what I would like my reality to be—that’s been huge.

    This has been a long search. And obviously it’s always a work in progress, but I’ve understood so much more through the clarity of the [Incubator’s] system.”

    Rauni Higson’s homepage

    The Incubator helped her to put all the pieces of her plan together: her goals, her passions, and her financial needs. As Rauni described it, the program helped her see that “There’s a structure: these are the moving parts, this is how they work together, and they’ve gotta work around me. And that has been pretty mega.”

    By implementing the Incubator’s process, Rauni’s elusive “dream” business became a reality.

    She has launched a new line of smaller collections of unique silver objects, including drinking vessels and jewel-like boxes, that she can produce alongside her larger commissioned pieces in order to develop a community of collectors who will accompany her on her journey.

    Rauni has launched a new line of smaller collections of unique silver objects, including drinking vessels and jewel-like boxes, that she can produce alongside her larger commissioned pieces in order to develop a community of collectors who will accompany her on her journey.

    She can now fully immerse herself in a commission and experience the joy of creating her work of art—without the pressure and burnout that comes with overcommitting. She makes smarter decisions that align with her business and personal goals, and has created a new reality full of more joy and less stress. 

    For Rauni, the Incubator wasn’t just a program, it was a process of transformation

    “It wasn’t as simple as following a recipe and making a cake. 
    It was like making primordial soup and building a human from it.

    Are you trying to find the “missing piece?”

    When Rauni started the Incubator, she was trying to piece together the goals she had for her business into a successful business plan . . . but something was missing.

    Rauni credits the Incubator for finding the “missing piece” that she needed, and helping her complete the puzzle to create the business that she envisioned.

    “It was such a massive redesign and shift [of] internal stuff as well as just putting it into practice.”

    When asked who she felt would benefit from the Incubator, she said “I would recommend it to anybody who feels like they know there’s a missing piece, but they don’t know what it is.” 

    Rauni knows there are other artists out there like herself who could transform their business with the Incubator—artists who know their work is good and that they can do amazing things, but who want to find a way to work with clients that lets them enjoy the work they love.

    She also offered time-tested wisdom to people like herself, who know that changes need to happen but aren’t sure if now is the time to do the program.

    Rauni had the same worries herself—wondering if she had the time to do the work and fit it into her busy life.

    “Then I just thought, well, you know what? If you don’t make it fit, it’s never gonna fit.

    So I went for it.”

    Rauni jumped in and never looked back, and crafted a business plan that nourishes her passions and provides financial security.

    She is no longer riding the roller coaster—she is piloting the plane.

    Learn more about Rauni’s work here.

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