A few months after Thomas Célérier took office as co-President of the French-American Chamber of Commerce of San Francisco alongside Amy de Rouvray, we met the new dynamic duo to discover the priorities and program they have defined with their team to continue building a dynamic Chamber open to its ecosystem.
Thomas, how did your career path lead you to become co-President of the Chamber, and what exactly does your role entail?
As soon as I arrived in the USA in 2005, on the advice of Jean-Claude Viollier, I approached the French-American Chamber of Commerce of San Francisco (FACCSF). My goal was to meet and integrate into the Bay Area’s business community, starting by joining the Chamber as a member via Capgemini Consulting, the company I was working for at the time. I was particularly drawn to the Life Sciences committee and its activities, with its regular events and panels, for which I gradually took on leadership responsibilities. These responsibilities enabled me to meet many new people and establish long-lasting professional relationships based on trust.
Over the years, I joined the Chamber’s Board, then the Executive Committee under the presidency of Antoine Villata, and finally the co-Presidency, with Amy de Rouvray, since June 2023. I have therefore worked with 4 Executive Directors and 6 Presidents over the last 15 years, with the entire Board and all the operational teams! Following the departure of Ludovic Ulrich, whose action and contributions we all applaud, I put myself forward as a candidate in the annual election for a new presidency, with the aim of continuing to build a dynamic and active Chamber by and for its members, attentive to their needs, and open to its ecosystem.
Each Chamber presidency shapes its role according to its style; however, the fundamentals remain the same: providing the strategic vision with the rest of the Board, instilling innovation within our roadmap, ensuring that the Chamber has a talented team to deliver its missions, monitoring with the Board the sound operational management of the Chamber, promoting the Chamber, interacting, energizing and activating alliances, partnerships and synergies with other players in the French-American economic ecosystem. The FACCSF operates under a unique co-Presidency model, which is an asset for the Chamber and our members in terms of diversity and continuity.
Could you remind our readers of the FACCSF’s mission?
Amy: The mission of the FACCSF is to promote the launch and growth of French, French-American and European companies within the Bay Area ecosystem, to contribute to and lead the development of a Francophone and Francophile business network with French, European and American members, to support the recruitment of French talents, and to bring together professionals in various sectors. All this in a region that largely includes and surrounds San Francisco, from Napa Valley to Silicon Valley to the East Bay. We also have members much further south, in the Central Valley and even as far away as Los Angeles!
Thomas: The Chamber’s Board of Directors represents a wide range of sectors, geographical regions and expertise. We therefore decided at our Board Retreat last August to create several working groups within the Board, dedicated in particular to our members (to ensure that we meet their expectations), our services (so that the community benefits from our expertise in terms of visas, learning expeditions and recruitment), and synergies (to collaborate with our various partners).
Amy, 16 months after you took office as co-President of the Chamber, what is your assessment of your accomplishments so far?
Amy: I was elected Co-President in June 2022. I’m very pleased to see that the Chamber has had a very good post-COVID resurgence. This is due in large part to the efforts and results of our Executive Director, Anne-Emmanuelle de Boysson and her team, as well as to our Board members, members, partners, sponsors who have supported us. Our member base is growing, our sponsors are supporting us (notably for the FABA, the French American Business Awards) and for La Soirée, the next installment of which takes place on November 30, 2023, thanks to our very active sector and functional committees.
We are particularly proud of the Women Leadership Committee, which regularly organizes much-appreciated events. In fact, I encourage you to join us on November 7 for the panel event “Women Leading Change in Life Sciences and Healthcare” co-organized by our Women Leadership Circle and Healthcare and Life Sciences committees.
In your last interview for MerciSF, you identified several opportunities such as “supporting the re-launch of VIE programs, obtaining visas for students, the fundraising gala in November…”, do you feel that you achieved these objectives?
Amy: Yes, La Soirée 2022 was a real success from a French gastronomy point of view – several top chefs were represented – and from a participation point of view – the French-American community was on hand and the sponsors very generous. We note that last year’s participants re-registered this year as soon as the ticket office opened in September. We see this event as a celebration of openness, intercultural and intergenerational ties for all Bay Area communities. The Soirée 2023, to be held on November 30, continues this tradition.
Thomas: We have also welcomed two VIEs on our premises for the duration of their program, and continue to raise awareness of the program within the community and with dedicated meetings for members who wish to participate. The extension of the program to VIE candidates from all European countries is a considerable asset, but not yet sufficiently well known!
What are your new priorities for developing the chamber’s activities and the ecosystem of French companies in the region?
Amy: First of all, I would like to point out that everything is decided collegially between co-Presidents, as well as with our Executive Committee, the Board and finally our members, whom we consult regularly!
Thomas: A change of presidency is always a very good opportunity to consolidate the efforts and results of previous years, as well as to launch new projects. We have strong, renewed ambitions for the Chamber, notably in the following areas:
- Accelerate, gather and continue to increase memberships of all levels and backgrounds to enrich the possibilities of exchange and collaboration between them, thanks to maximum size, diversity and network effect.
- Reach out to American members, as well as to individual entrepreneurs and smaller structures and companies. There is a strong need and potential in this segment, which has been neglected.
- Continue to bring ever greater added value to our members, in particular through : services (recruitment, J1 visas, learning expeditions, etc.), proactive, managed networking within the French-American community, from Napa and Sonoma Valley to the Central Valley (with a particular focus on the agricultural and restaurant sectors) and a personalized approach, with individualized responses to members’ specific needs
- To offer high-quality, unique, convivial and “serious-fun” professional events, showcasing the best of French wine, gastronomy and culture.
- Build on the success of FABA by including partnerships and special awards with other European chambers, French Tech, economic advisors, etc…
- … and last but certainly not least: promoting “working together” at all levels, with our partners and other organizations in the Bay Area ecosystem. This is a subject close to our hearts. The demand within the French and French-American community is clear.
Amy: In addition to returning to the in-person events that everyone appreciates, we also intend to continue offering specific virtual events, notably inter-chamber and with France. Finally, the Chamber is keen to regionalize within the Bay Area and the rest of its perimeter to activate the micro-communities that ask us to do so, with smaller, more informal, more frequent events for our members.
The Chamber has set up working committees on specific themes. Could you tell us about each of these committees (mission, objectives, activities, etc.)?
Thomas: The Chamber has 5 active committees, some of which have several dozen members (Sustainability, Women Leadership Circle, Grape Circle, Healthcare and Life Sciences and Mobility). To find out more and join the committees, here’s a page presenting the committees and their activities: Our Committees. In 2023, over 75 events will be organized by our committees and Chamber partners. In 2024, we’re also stepping up our partnership with French Tech, as well as with other European Chambers.
What are the major upcoming FACCSF events to mark on our calendars?
Thomas: We encourage you to check out our calendar of events here, as it is rich and varied thanks to the dynamism of our sector and theme committees. La Soirée will be one of our major upcoming events, on November 30. We’re counting on over 300 people, in a prestigious venue!
And we’re already working on our other major event, FABA 2024, which will take place in June and be preceded by satellite events! See this link to find out all about FABA 2023.
We’re also working with Anne-Emmanuelle, the Chamber team and the committees to plan at least 2-3 events per month over the last quarter of 2023, as well as over the year 2024, either directly or in partnership with our allied organizations, such as JP Morgan’s Healthcare conference in early January 2024 with Business France, as well as the traditional galette de rentrée with all the players in the Bay Area’s business ecosystem with French Tech!
You share the presidency of the FACCSF, but also a common passion for poetry. How do you cultivate this passion and share it with the community today?
Amy: Yes, it’s a passion we share. In fact, we were both at the prize-giving ceremonies for the 2023 Poetry Competition that Thomas launched with the French Heritage Society, and for which I joined the Board and Jury. The young poets are children aged 3 to 18, from all over the American West and even Tahiti and Wallis and Futuna!
Thomas: We are both authors of poems, some even published, and thanks to the Poetry Contest and the generous support of sponsors, the participants’ poems will be published within a collection to be released in early 2024! Amy is the more serious and studious of the two of us, having also recently returned to school to earn an MFA in Poetry from San Francisco State University. We’re both convinced of the need to encourage poetry for all ages, hence our involvement in this competition. As Chateaubriand said: “Poetry is the song within”. We would add that “sharing this song is even better”.
Merci Amy et Thomas!