San Diego and France are both the industrial cradle of dynamic sectors such as biotech, clean-tech, blue-tech, defense, aerospace, software development, and tourism.
To energize, boost, strengthen and stimulate the collaboration between France and Southern California, while creating mutual benefits, the San Diego French-American Chamber of Commerce team is dedicated to encourage:
- French entrepreneurs to develop their business and/or export theirs goods and services in the U.S.
- Southern Californian companies looking for new business opportunities in France
Thanks to a wide range of expertise ranging from different areas, the executive team with the board of directors are committed to offering high level quality services to any companies reaching out to the Chamber.
Apart from the executive team and the Board, our growing network of members, made up of local businesses and entrepreneurs, extend our capacities to manage any kind of project: immigrations and corporate lawyers, insurers, CPA, bankers, web-designers, translators, the list goes on.
One of our goal is to grow our network of local professionals who can promote their business while providing their own services to French entrepreneurs coming to San Diego as well as American companies in San Diego.
The Board of directors and the executive team are committed to expanding the Chamber’s activities and expertise to always remain a key partner of any kind of international project development, whether you are a French or American entrepreneur.
Gilles Bonkoksi: Executive Director
Expertise: Management, Business Development, Recruitment
Before taking over the management of the San Diego Chamber of Commerce, Gilles was Regional Director at SFR Business Team. Gilles has been managing the San Diego Chamber of Commerce for 4 years. He has created a strong network with local organizations in San Diego and a platform for business support services. The Chamber of Commerce of San Diego has become the benchmark of the Chambers of Commerce in the United States in the field of accompanying companies in export and implantation.
• Sales Engineer at Neuf Cegetel
• Office Manager at Neuf Cegetel
• Regional Manager at SFR Business Team
Axelle d’Epenoux: Marketing & Communication Manager
Expertise: Project Management, Communication & Marketing, Business Development
Dynamic and comfortable in an international project management environment, Axelle has more than 15 years experience in the fields of communication and corporate finance. Throughout her professional career, Axelle has been motivated to help companies grow. Organized and rigorous, she represents an asset on effective development of international projects. Axelle is responsible for the Evènenement et communication project since 2011. She is also in charge of the Business Project Manager on all the support services for companies: market research, partner identification, relocation service.
Axelle has worked for major international groups: PSA Peugeot Citroen (automotive manufacturer) and HSBC (banking sector). She is a graduate of Science Po Paris, with a bachelors degree in Economics and Finance.
The SDFACC benefits from having a board of directors with extensive professional experience in entrepreneurship, marketing and investment.
The Board of Directors of the SDFACC is made up of recognized individuals who are in the social and professional community within San Diego. The members of this council are experienced entrepreneurs, established in southern California, some have been in San Diego for decades, and most often are a reference in our local community.
Composed of 10 directors, the boards main mission is to also bring their expertise in the high-tech sectors to facilitate the achievement of the services of the chamber of commerce. They bring their expertise to entrepreneurs wishing to establish their business in San Diego.
Christophe Fremont: President
Expertise: Entrepreneurship and Investing
Mr. Christophe Fremont was President and Chief Operating Officer of Solar Gard in San Diego, an independent division of Bekaert that he sold to Saint-Gobain in 2011. He oversaw globally all aspects of the Company’s strategic vision, business, sales initiatives and financial operations. Fremont brought the company from a US centric company status to a company recognized globally as a strong player in the energy saving industry, selling products in more than 90 countries, with 6 plants all over the world and more than 15 offices internationally. He has full knowledge of mergers and acquisition process. Sold a mid-size company at high-level EBITDA multiple. He has joined the team and will bring the skills and experience for the Chamber’s growth and advise the entrepreneurs who request support from the Chamber of Commerce.
Edward Benito: Secretary
Expertise: American Business Law
As to the skills that could benefit the Chamber in its endeavor to help French entrepreneurs and businesses in San Diego: “Given that the creation and protection of real-and-personal property rights forms the backbone of business, I believe the Chamber would benefit from my extensive experience representing clients of all sizes in not only corporate, contract, and other transactional matters, but also in all aspects of business, commercial, intellectual property, construction and real estate litigation. My business and real estate legal practice involves both creating contracts with the aim of avoiding potential disputes and finding solutions for clients actually involved in disputes over business contracts, intellectual property, construction or real property. I have achieved excellent results in matters before the state trial court, courts of appeal, and Supreme Court. San Diego Magazine has repeatedly recognized me as one of the Top Lawyers for business litigation. And Martindale-Hubbell rates me as AV Preeminent, which is a rating reflecting the highest level of professional excellence.”
Charles Speidel: Treasurer
Expertise: Entrepreneurship and Investing
Passionate about business and leadership, Charles Speidel is the Chief Operating Officer of Instaply Inc. Prior to this, Charles was a former Sony senior executive with more than 18 years’ experience in various sales and marketing functions within Sony. He has managed multimillion dollars businesses for Sony across the globe. Most recently as Vice President of the Research and Innovation Centre for Sony Electronics, Inc. headquarters in San Diego, California, he was responsible for the company’s strategic marketing initiatives and innovation programs, developing innovative solutions for Sales & Marketing and product development activities. When asked why he is in business, Charles responds with, “People! It’s about having fun and making profit.” Charles already served as a Board Advisors of the Chamber for the past 2 years and is committed to participate at the development of the San Diego French-American Chamber of Commerce in the Board of Directors.
Claude D. Benchimol
Expertise: Entrepreneurship and Biotech Health Sector
Claude D. Benchimol, Ph.D, is the President of Damol Innovation LLC, a consulting practice he founded in 2012, focused on technology-based innovation in healthcare (medical devices, pharma & biotech, healthcare IT). Clients span companies from small start-ups to large public Companies ($2B-$28B). Passionate about innovation, he has a 34 year success history of building, leading and inspiring vibrant global organizations, responsible for the introduction of high impact, complex technology products within GE Healthcare and Life Technologies. He is also a member of the French Academy of Technology, serves as a member of the Council of Advisors of the UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering, as well as in several other profit and non-profit boards. Claude already served two years as a Board Advisor of the French-American Chamber of Commerce and is enthusiastic to continue as a member of the Board of Director. He will share his large network and advise the Chamber of Commerce’s team to expand their activities.
Felicity Di Pisa
Expertise: Finance and Insurance
Felicity Di Pisa is a financial advisor with over 10 years’ experience in capital markets, foreign exchange and financial operations. She worked in London and Paris for Fitch Ratings, a credit rating agency specialized in risk management and related advisory services, and then moved to San Diego 3 years ago to become a financial advisor. Felicity works with local, national and international business owners and entrepreneurs and has an in-depth understanding of business needs. Felicity graduated from the London School of Economics and the Sorbonne University. Felicity graduated from the London School of Economics and the Sorbonne University. She can help the team by bringing her financial operations expertise and in advising local and international entrepreneurs settle in San Diego.
Expertise: Entrepreneurship and Investing
Christophe Dufour is the owner and CEO of Pictor Inc. a company dedicated to the sales and marketing of Airport Ground Support Equipment. Christophe has over 20 years’ experience in the manufacturing of special purpose vehicles. Thanks to his many travels around the world, he developed a very large international network. It also gave him the opportunity to enjoy the diversity of foreign cultures. Christophe is thrilled to join the SDFACC to share his professional experience and help the entrepreneurs who wants to set up a business in San Diego by answering practical questions
Expertise: Marketing, SEO and Communications
With over fifteen years of Marketing communications and Business consulting experience in the United States, Charles has most recently been employed with companies in growth state assisting them to develop their online presence. He’s successful at building strong relationships with the business stakeholders as well as the strategic, tactical and execution teams. He specializes in utilizing marketing, communications and project management processes to develop new lead generation pipelines while consolidating and retaining current partnerships. His involvement with the board of directors will be an asset when it comes to expanding the in person and digital reach of the San Diego French Chamber of Commerce.
Expertise: Marketing and Event Planning
Frederique’s expertise is around brands and making them grow- including creating the right value proposition, preparing a brand for future growth through extensions, and positioning them in ever-changing market environments. Driven by curiosity, Frederique is fascinated by consumer decision-making and finding the best solutions to elaborate the best go-to-market strategy and in-market activation. She strongly believes in finding what is true and unique in an organization, and using it to inspire employees and customers- the key to achieve a brand’s success. Most of her career has been driven by her passion for brands, problem solving, and relationship building, in a tremendous variety of company cultures. Prior to founding SMAC CONSEILS agency in 2004 , Frederique was VP Marketing Director at Heinz Company and Marketing Manager at Paribas and Heineken. As a professional marketer and communication adviser, she joined the French American Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors to share her experience, and to support French entrepreneurs build and successfully implement their new or existing brand. As an executive coach she can also provide support and help develop talent.
Expertise: Immigration Law
Rayana Thomas is an attorney who has been practicing in California for 6 years and have been in the law industry for about 10 years now. Rayana Thomas focus mostly on immigration and also has a law degree from France. Thomas believes that her skills can help the French-American Chamber of Commerce by providing legal advices when needed. In addition, she can assist the Chamber by guiding French companies and/or individuals who are in the process of moving to the US. As an immigrant from France herself, she understand first-hand the difficulties companies/entrepreneurs might be facing. There are often legal and technical issues that need to be resolved prior to and while in the process of moving to the United States.
Expertise: Entrepreneurship and Investing – Environment
Eric Vigouroux is an entrepreneur and a former top athlete. In 1991, at the young age of 26, Vigouroux created Pro-System which is a service company that specializes in the management of refrigerated display cabinet fleets. Fifteen years later, Pro-System Group organized into three subsidiaries with an employment of 200 people, and developed internationally while continuing to strengthen its leading position. Eric Vigouroux’s athletic career took place from 1995 to 2014. He led a race team in the rally-raid discipline where he was a professional driver and team manager. He participated in 15 editions of the Dakar Rally and numerous FIA world up events. In 2012 he became World Champion in his class and he won the international Rally of Morocco a few months later. Vigouroux is currently working on a project to build an all-terrain 100% electric vehicle. Eric Vigouroux is eager to support the San Diego French-American Chamber of Commerce’s team in its endeavor to support French entrepreneurs and companies to set up a business in San Diego.
Expertise: Entrepreneurship and Engineering
Lulu Hsu worked in the gas turbine industry for 35 years, initially as an engineer in the technical arena and moved over to the business side in the latter half, working directly with global and regional customers in the energy sector. She retired from Solar Turbines Inc. (a Caterpillar company) in 2012 and since then has continued to be actively involved as a volunteer in various organizations around her 3 areas of interest: (1) helping women reach their maximum potential in the workplace, (2) maintaining a global perspective, and (3) classical music.
Lulu is a founding member of the Women’s Leadership Council of the United Way of San Diego; founder of GROW (Generating Ripples of Opportunity for Women), a non-profit that works on empowering women and developing feminine leadership; former Board of San Diego NAAAP (National Association of Asian American Professionals); Chair of AmateurPianists and a Board member of AmateurPianist, the largest meet-up group in the US for amateur pianists.
Expertise: Organizational expertise, project management, event planner
After experiencing firsthand that busy managers where lacking support on their personal needs to really focus on their priorities, she joined a Lifestyle Management firm and helped develop this new concept in France. She recently moved to San Diego and currently work for Elite Lifestyle Management, a Private Club attended by C-level executives willing to “work hard, play hard”. She specializes in every travel, leisure and lifestyle need of her clients so they can enjoy more what is fundamentally important in their life and business. Olivia is thrilled to support the SDFACC and bring her incomparable passion for organization, and ability to get access to the inaccessible.
Our committees are autonomous working groups corresponding to the three major areas of work of the Chamber of Commerce. Each committee is composed of board members, 1 person from the executive team and external people with expertise related to the subject of the committee.
The objective of this committee is to increase the visibility of the Chamber through our network of partners. This committee aims to detect and establish relationships of privileged partnerships with potential future contributors of French companies looking to develop in San Diego and also the many Californian companies that want to reach the French market.
The membership committee is in charge of managing and animating our network of members. It sets out the strategy to be put in place with our members to retain existing members and increase the community with new members.
This committee is in charge of elaborating the annual planning of the events organized by the Chamber. Part of the team deals with the definition of the strategy (targets, format, planning) and the other party deals with all the logistics of the events. This committee also manages our organization and event management service for third parties.