Fox & Co Turns 4: Q&A with our Founder, Phyo Thu

September 3, 2019

Here at Fox & Co, we aim to create meaningful motion design. Since 2015, our Founder and Creative Director, Phyo Thu, has been working hard to achieve this goal, making sure that our content does more than simply meet expectations. We are proud of all of the work we have done and wanted to reflect on the progress made since our very humble beginnings. Since Fox & Co recently celebrated their fourth birthday, we decided to ask Phyo a few questions about his journey to making Fox & Co the motion design company it is today.

What made you want to start a business instead of joining one?

I started my creative career as an in-house motion designer about a decade ago. Since then, I fell in love with the agency culture of work hard, play hard, party hard. However, after a couple of years working there, I noticed that the majority of the challenging projects were outsourced to more specialized animation/VFX studios. My next move would have been to work for the award-winning studios in the US or UK, but I couldn't leave New Zealand due to immigration reasons.

I decided to leave the agency to work for Weta Digital and after that, I started freelancing for smaller production houses. Although the work was challenging, the culture wasn't quite there. It was either that the team was too big and nobody knew who you were or the team was too small with too much work and no play or work culture. It's always been my dream to work at an amazing studio with a great team, great office culture, and world-class clients. You know, there is a saying, "If you want something done right, do it yourself." So I decided to start my own creative studio.

What were some unexpected challenges you faced when starting Fox & Co?

I come from a creative background, so running my own business was a challenging concept for me. There was a lot of trial and error, especially at the beginning. Luckily for me, I had about a decade of work experience before going on my own, so I didn't have to spend a lot of time learning about doing creative work. This gave me more time to focus on working on the business. That's when I realised that thinking like a freelancer doesn't work when running a business. Once I shifted my mindset from a freelancer to a business owner, I had an ‘aha’ moment. I needed to be great at leading the team and also had to learn to manage the clients’ expectations better in order to achieve my goal of running a successful creative firm.

How do you go about getting sponsors to get a startup company off the ground?

Unfortunately, there’s no sponsors. It’s a bit of life-saving, a bit of naivety, and a lot of bravery.  Looking back, it was more important for me to make something happen at the time. For some reason, I was too eager to start something on my own that I overcame the fear of uncertainty and doubts that people usually have before starting a business. 

I knew in the back of my mind that I could always find a full-time job or go back to freelancing if it didn’t go well. But at the same time, failure is not an option. So I worked really hard in the first year to get the company off the ground. 

If you could give advice to students planning on creating startups, what would it be?

Do it. But get some experience first and learn from others’ mistakes as well as your own. Also, make sure it's something that you are passionate about and truly believe in. Nothing is worse than being stuck in a company that you hate, so imagine owning one.

How much has your vision of this company changed from the beginning to today?

Quite a lot. It's because I have become more aware of the market. Although the motion design industry itself is pretty young, it has changed a lot over the years. Clients are getting smarter and becoming more aware of what works and what doesn't work. So, it's not about creating eye-candy animation anymore; whatever we create has to have meaning behind it and also has to go far beyond the clients’ objectives. Not only do we have to create amazing content, but we also have to think like a client to understand their fears, hopes, and dreams. 

My vision of the company will always keep evolving until we find our niche in the market. Even then, I think we still have to keep up with the technology and keep an eye out for new opportunities in the market. Evolution is the key to success in the tech-driven creative industry. 

If you could go back to when you first started the process of building this company, are there any changes you would’ve made?

Good old “if you could give advice to your younger-self” question. 

Nothing really. The whole point of choosing the path of an entrepreneur is to challenge yourself. I embrace not knowing what the future holds and having a goal to work towards. I get a kick out of finding solutions from problems, which I think is the core of running the creative business (solving clients’ problems is our day to day task). Yes, I have made some mistakes along the way and wish that at the beginning I knew some of the things I know now. At the same time, learning from my mistakes helps me become a better creative entrepreneur.

What is the most rewarding part of being the boss of your own company?

The most rewarding part is that I get to bring my vision to life. When we were starting out, we made a list of dream clients and ideal projects that we wanted to work on. Now, we are already working with most of the clients from that list and are working on projects that we once dreamed of.  

Keep in mind that most of our dream clients are not based in New Zealand. The fact that they choose to work with us, rather than a studio down the road from them, shows that clients prefer quality over convenience. 

On the other hand, talented creative people reach out to us from around the world on an almost daily basis to express their interest in working with us. This proves that we are doing something right. 

It’s very exciting to see that we no longer need to depend on locations or timezones to work with clients or freelancers across the world with the help of high-speed internet and file-sharing tools.

Fox & Co turned four this September. What is your greatest accomplishment approaching your fourth birthday? 

I think working with global clients and maintaining those relationships from little ol’ New Zealand is one of our greatest accomplishments. We get the best of both worlds. We get to work on exciting projects with international clients from here in Wellington while maintaining a pretty chill kiwi lifestyle. 

Oh, being able to send the whole team to Melbourne for a motion design conference last summer was pretty awesome. Representing the motion design community from Wellington and New Zealand is another accomplishment.

 

What is one goal you have for the coming year for the company?

Since most of our clients are based outside New Zealand, we have been neglecting the local markets. There are projects that we know we can add a ton of value to, such as raising awareness through a social media campaign, changing a behaviour, or working on a good old fashion TV commercial. 

My goal for this coming year is to connect more with local startups, creative and government agencies and look for opportunities to collaborate or produce more impactful and meaningful content.