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An institution that has been in operation for over three decades, the San Francisco French American Chamber of Commerce is a member-based non-profit, which strives to connect the French and American business communities.

Out of the nation’s 19 chambers, the San Francisco French American Chamber of Commerce is the second largest with over 300 members within the Bay Area, from San Jose to the Napa Valley.

Last August, the Chamber welcomed its new executive director, appointed by the Board of Directors, Brynhild Dumas. She is one of two paid employees, and the operating staff is made of volunteers and interns.

Overview of the Organization

With no subsidies from the French government, the organization relies on memberships, yearly cultural and networking events as well as trade services. From free advice to in-depth business plan, coaching and assisting companies that are looking into settling in the Bay Area, the non-profit’s mission is to help entrepreneurs from start to finish.

And once they get here, it helps introducing them to the local French, european and american business communities. Networking is a key service the chamber provides its members, allowing them to meet new business partners, clients or suppliers at one of its 50 or 60 events organized every year.

“This is one of the most effective way to keep members,” says Dumas last week in her downtown San Francisco office. And the networking spreads to the European business community as well with events taking place alongside other chambers allowing for more networking opportunities.

A new Executive Director

Dumas’ professional experience as Director of Development for the French Institute for International Relationship and working for the corporate banking industry made her a strong candidate for the position. As new executive director, her goal is to double the chamber’s membership base within the next 5 years. In her new capacity, Dumas is not short of ideas on how to make her organization become indispensable to the French and American businesses.

For instance, a “pairing system” between older and newer members might soon be tested to increase members’ activity and involvement allowing for new members to have a go-to person who could introduce them to their circles. For Dumas, when coming to the US, French entrepreneurs might mistakenly think that Americans are quite similar to the French, but in reality relationships aren’t the same, thus while talking about differences in the work culture, she explains that a cultural boot camp might someday be on the agenda for the organization’s members.

But this is only one of several ideas of regular boot camp-style seminars she would like to offer to the Chamber’s members. While most events used to be opened to the general public and fewer destined only to members, as new executive director, she plans on reversing this trend to make 70% of the chambers’ events for members-only.

Brynhild Dumas has been in the US since August 2010 “and I don’t wanna go back,” she says. But she’s well versed in the American culture and lifestyle, as she’s studied and interned here in the US.

The Chamber’s biggest fundraising event: La Soirée Friday, November 18

From now until November 18, the chamber’s efforts will be dedicated to the event of the year. La Soirée is its largest fundraising event. This year being a special one since it is the celebration of its 30th anniversary.

Taking place at San Francisco Metreon City View penthouse, between 800 to a 1,000 guests are expected for the big night.

Plenty of excitement will be provided: ranging from a wedding dress fashion show, to a millesime wine tasting, to tango dancing and a retail showroom showcasing its members’ most delicious and beautiful work. The event is opened to non-members, and early bird tickets can be purchased online.

If you haven’t made up your mind yet: there will be a silent auction and a lottery with the possibility to win a Club Med trip for two!!!!

And just for you French Connection SF, we have a preview of the event’s poster. Images courtesy of French American Chamber of Commerce San Francisco.