“My main love is telling stories. When I am creating a new episode, I pick an object and look for a story arc, generally along the lines of, I found it, I fix it, I use it.” YouTuber Rinoa Leonhart explained. “For instance, over here are a bunch of tools that I found at the scrap yard. I will probably do a video series where I take ten items out, restore them and then introduce them to the workshop.”
While she delves into several different formats of storytelling, Leonhart most prominently works with film. She currently operates five different YouTube channels, ranging in size from 214 subscribers on her smallest channel, “Rinoa in 3D,” to 100,009 subscribers on her largest channel, “Rinoa’s Auspicious Travails.” Each of Leonhart’s channels are geared around her natural curiosity and innate ability to restore and create things. Though they also branch out to cover her various interests, like gaming, movies and her ongoing story of personal growth.
Currently a resident of Taylor Springs, Leonhart grew up in Panama, living for a brief amount of time in Switzerland as a small child. After a disastrous first year of Kindergarten, Leonhart’s parents, Duane Mollet and Sharon Richardson, opted to take her out of the formal education system and home school her. She was a natural learner and thrived in a less structured environment where she could pursue her own interests.
“I was raised in a learning family, not a formally learning family but a solution finding family. Building things is something I have always done, My grandfather was always a tinkerer and I started building things as a child because we were poor and all I had was junk to play with,” Leonhart said jokingly. “Honestly, it started because I was bored, I lived in Panama and I was homeschooled so I didn’t really have many friends. I loved to read, but the books I could get my hands on were generally old, used books. I read a lot of things like, General Chemistry volume three’ and ‘Atoms, Energy and Machines.”
In many ways, what could be described as a difficult and lonely childhood turned out to be a launching pad for Leonhart. In 2010, 16-year-old Leonhart discovered the computer game “Final Fantasy 14.” The game was an MMO (massively multiplayer online game) which pushed an introverted Leonhart out of her previous world of social isolation. In addition to teaching Leonhart how to better interact with her peers, it further peaked her interest in storytelling.
Leonhart quickly began uploading videos onto YouTube, but it took several years before her main channel, “Rinoa’s Auspicious Travails,” began to take off. She attributes much of her success to the years she spent learning and honing her skills, and to the personal growth she underwent as she moved into adulthood.
“Final Fantasy allowed me to talk to others but YouTube was where I learned to tell a story,” Leonhart explained. “I made the “DIY: Electric Bike” video on Dec. 22, 2012, (www.youtube.com/watch?v=NGdElRXcbhI) and that was when I got my first real subscribers. I got 12 subscribers - it was amazing,” Leonhart reminisced. “Within six months I had 100 subscribers. In another six months, I had 1,000 subscribers. From there the channel has been steadily gaining around 30 subscribers a day for the last decade. Somehow, something about what I do works with YouTube.”
Leonhart took her lifelong ability to see connections and build things and expanded on it. Her love of storytelling is forefront in her videos, which feature projects she is personally interested in, like building rockets, as well as videos intended to teach needed technical skills, like car battery and air conditioner repair guides. According to Leonhart, it is hit-and-miss, often videos she thinks are cool projects get little attention while the ones that “people google at the side of the road, when they are in a state of emergency,” bring in the most money.
Within a year she had reached the threshold where YouTube will allow contributors to monetize their pages. A year later (in 2014) her main page would draw a subscriber that would drastically change the course of Leonhart’s life.
“My page had grown to around 9,000 subscribers and one of the people who befriended me was working for Apple and putting together a team. He brought me out to California for a nine hour interview; it was intense to say the least. I had never had a professional interview before. I really didn’t take the job offer that seriously, which interestingly enough worked out in my favor. They thought I was laid back,” Leonhart said with a laugh.
Leonhart accepted the job offer and moved to California, a drastic culture shock for the homeschooled Panama native. She began as a prototype-technician and advanced to managing labs during her time with the technology company. Even without the full attention of Leonhart her channel continued to thrive, growing to 25,000 subscribers over the two year time period. While she enjoyed having access to high-tech equipment and working alongside people with similar interests, Leonhart found herself waning in California.
“California kind of drove me crazy. I felt like I was a burden on everyone around me because I didn’t know public transit, I didn’t know anything really,” Leonhart explained, when asked why she left the job with Apple. “Plus, I noticed that I was plateauing; I wasn’t improving anymore. I had always viewed the job as temporary. I view everything as temporary, even this (YouTube) is temporary. I’m still messing around. I’m like Elon Musk in 1989, not interesting yet.”
Leonhart bought a house in Taylor Springs and returned her focus to building her now lucrative YouTube channel. Always in search of a story, she takes on a wide variety of projects, often finding old items at yard sales, or scavenging them from the scrap yard or demolition sites, to restore. For the last year one of her primary projects has been building her own laboratory, or workshop, from the ground up.
An impressive undertaking, Leonhart based the design off of a building from Final Fantasy, modifying it to fit her property line. She also added personal touches, including solar panels and 20 ft., by 20 ft., skylights - which, according to Leonhart, are fantastic for storm gazing. Filming videos for her channels was also a large factor in Leonhart’s design. Interestingly, enough she found that studying kitchen designs from the early 1900’s provided a layout for building a better functioning workshop.
“Even now, my workshop is in an unfinished state,” Leonhart said. “For instance, I found this mirror on one of my scavenging trips. I never thought to add a mirror but it’s perfect for filming, because I can angle my camera off of it and add distance to make this space seem less cramped.”
Leonhart also pointed out several other issues that presented themselves during the initial construction phase.
“I make a lot of mistakes. A few of the bigger issues I am working on now are trying to keep Carpenter Bees away and temperature moderation. In the morning it is fine but in the evening it really starts roasting in here because of the skylights. But, there is an old well right outside so my current plan is to dig it down and if the bottom is fine I will cap it so I have pipes coming up and then re-fill the top part. The hope is that I can create a little reservoir that collects water, which I can use to create a cooling system,” Leonhart explained.
Leonhart has documented the large-scale project on her YouTube channel, “Rinoa’s Auspicious Travails.” Interested readers can watch the “DIY: Workshop” series online at www.youtube.com/user/icc3a1800.