Fox River Rendering and the Dreaded Networking

Networking. I remember despising the word in college. Networking was one of those scary things that everybody had to do once they entered the real world. I knew I was even suppose to be doing it in school, too. It scared me in the way that applying to colleges had scared me in high school. I always knew that kind of fear was irrational. When it came to colleges, applying was straight forward. All it took was a little bit of initiative. If taken one day at a time, it was no harder, or scarier, than anything else I'd done in my life. And networking, I knew, was the same way. But even so, I still let myself be afraid. I pushed it out of my thoughts and avoided it when I could.

Looking back on that mindset, I'm amazed at the way I feel today. I was just introduced to an amazing networking opportunity happening in less than a week, and instead of feeling apprehensive or unprepared, I'm super excited. There is a small place, deep inside of me, that can still identify with that fear when I think about how my future is riding on my networking abilities. I know that success as a small business, especially a freelancer, is all about making connections. But after five years of stagnant career ambitions, I'm just ready to dive in headfirst.

Last week, I launched my company, Fox River Rendering. I had been working on freelance 3D modeling and related projects here and there since before graduation in 2010. I had some great projects and had even worked as a partner at Moka Productions, a video production agency in Evanston, but I lacked focus. I knew I wanted to be a freelancer, and for a long time, I thought that was enough. Slowly, but surely, I began to realize that I needed a plan. I have always had a hard time narrowing down my interests and my goals, and though I will still say that diversity is the spice of life, there is a time and place for ambiguity. And starting a career isn't one of them.

First off, I needed a name. Thank you, Mom and Dad. Samantha Brown is easy to spell, easy to remember, but IMPOSSIBLE to brand. Any variation, even the most obscure, has already been taken in domain names, email address, social media handles--everything!

Second, I needed a platform. Freelancing is limitless with clients and boundaries, but if I was going to spread the word about my services, I realized I couldn't try to sell myself to the whole world.

And lastly, I needed to focus my field. That's the hardest part by far and I know I'm going to be struggling with it for some time to come. 3D modeling is just such an amazing field. And there are so many fields so closely related, that it's hard to say, "I do THIS, and ONLY this." But, I think part of having a brand is making it accessible to everyone who comes in contact with it. No one's going to remember Sam Brown who does 3D modeling and animation and motion graphics and video productions and....you get the picture. What they WILL remember is...

Fox River Rendering: 3D Visualization Studio.

I wanted to focus on a "company" persona, rather than an "individual." I also wanted something that felt grounded. Something that rooted me to a location, even if I ended up working on projects from all over the world. Fox River Rendering solves both of these problems. It rolls off the tongue. It links me to my roots (the Fox River area) without sounding restrictive, and it gives me the flexibility to branch out as the company grows. I know that I will eventually sub-contract work or partner on projects and I want my company's image to reflect a team or a community, rather than one individual artist.

Back to the subject of networking, I attended a vendor show last Sunday for my other business, SB Face Painting, which I've been doing (successfully) since 2010. The vendor show was pretty much a dud, but I made one contact that made it all worth it. One of the other vendors came up to talk to me and told me about an event this Friday that she thought I might be interested in: The McHenry Scrambler. After reading up on it, I got really excited, but I realized I would much rather attend as Fox River Rendering.

The Scrambler is a progressive networking luncheon. You're seated at a table of 9 other people related to your field for each of the three lunch courses. You all take turns introducing yourself and your company while enjoying each portion of the meal. It sounds like it's been going on for several years and there was a video on their website showing a crowded room full of local professionals. There will be a short meeting in the beginning for "newbies" and more networking before and after the meal, too.

So, that being said, I had to quickly design and print some business cards to give away at the Scrambler. Plus, I have to answer a few questions they've outlined for the day: "Introduce your business," "Share an example as to how you helped someone," and "Who is your best power partner or referral?" I'm a little stumped on those last two, but I'll figure it out. I've been reading and listening to a bunch of advice on how to benefit from networking events and I am soooo ready to give it a try.

And if that wasn't enough, I also realized that this Sunday is the Home Improvement and Landscaping Expo in Wheaton. I've never attended one of these home shows, but I think they're going to be great avenues for potential clients, too. I want to see how they're run and potentially host one myself someday in Norway.

Ambitions, ambitions.

Thanks everybody. I'm off to practice my "elevator speech!"

NEW Fox River Rendering business cards

At-a-Glance, McHenry Scramble Promo Video

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