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The French-American Chamber of Commerce Heads into its Second Year in Peachtree Corners



Keynote speakers (left to right): SVP of Product and Digital Accounts at OVHcloud US, Pascal Jaillon, CEO of Pertinent Health, Bruno Jactel, CEO of sunday, Christine de Wendel, and Exotec VP of Operations, Stanislas Normand. Photos by La French Tech Atlanta. Photos courtesy of La French Tech Atlanta.

FACC boosts trade and investment between France and the Southeast.

Leaving behind airport-like security measures that allowed one-person-at-a-time access to the French Consulate building in Buckhead a year ago, The French-American Chamber of Commerce — Atlanta Southeast (FACC) planted its roots in the heart of Silicone Orchard. It has become a part of the innovation ecosystem of Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners and has much to celebrate.

How have things gone since they heralded their repositioning to a smart city with real-world connected infrastructure and 5G, using robot-delivered ribbon and scissors during their Peachtree Corners inauguration? I weighed-in with Katherine Lafourcade, Executive Director of the FACC since January 2021, to discuss how the well-timed relocation has played out to date.

Serendipity at its finest

It was perfect synergy — the strategic move to a vibrant tech environment in combination with the official launch of the La French Tech Atlanta community. Atlanta received this French government-backed accreditation in 2021. It’s now one of 12 American cities that aid French tech startups looking to branch into the United States and American tech companies looking to cross the Atlantic and branch into France.

Congratulations Hypercell Technologies and Bruno Jactel for winning the 2022 Crystal Pitch Competition from La French Tech Atlanta and the French American Chamber of Commerce Atlanta. Photo courtesy of La French Tech Atlanta.

The La French Tech presence in Curiosity Lab, along with the FACC, solidifies Silicone Orchard as a startup hub — a desirable destination for international tech companies and investors.

Curiosity Lab enables startups to prove out new technologies in a real-world setting with infrastructure that includes cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) technology, autonomous vehicles, drones, robotics and solar roadways.

Lafourcade deems the move advantageous. “The space at Curiosity Lab is amazing,” she said. “There’s always something new and different happening. It’s always evolving. It’s fun to be in that environment. They’re digging holes, moving walls, there are drones, robots — kind of everything. What a great thing to be able to offer access to all of that as a chamber of commerce.”

With a terrific team of people and fluid connections to the wider community around Atlanta, the FACC intends to remain at Curiosity Lab for the long haul.

“Onward and upward! Curiosity Lab generates interest and piques people’s curiosity. It’s an easy sell. Peachtree Corners is unique. It’s pretty special,” Lafourcade beamed.

PTC — The host with the most

The city has embraced the FACC, offering support every step of the way. “Peachtree Corners has been an amazing partner. They help by sponsoring events. I joke that they’re ‘the Yes People,’ but they really are! They help in any way they can. I think they’ve been instrumental in the chamber doing as well as it is now,” Lafourcade said.

French American chambers exist solely through their membership and events. There are no subsidies or funding coming in from elsewhere.

After having been hit hard by the COVID outbreak, the FACC is presently thriving. Being in a milieu that attracts the interest of French technology companies looking to expand facilitates partnerships as the Chamber has much to offer.

“We work closely with the French Consulate, the Metro Atlanta Chamber,” Lafourcade said. “We have really great connections with the city and the mayor’s office of international affairs. We’re in the heart of a bustling community. Our location really helps that role.”

A hub of innovation, open-mindedness and an entrepreneurial spirit

While the FACC has a special focus on France, the collaboration and development expand to other European countries. In turn, the cosmopolitan nature of Atlanta and surrounding areas astonishes Lafourcade, who moved here from Switzerland.

“I’m a bit amazed at the number of people here who weren’t born here. People have come for work or other reasons, and everybody is thriving. I think that is due in part to local people, southern hospitality and warmth. There’s a welcome for everybody. It doesn’t matter where you’re from. The attitude is, ‘the doors are open. We’ll help you on your journey,’” she surmised.

Curiosity Lab PR and Strategy Representative Kelsey Neely confirms that the innovation center was an excellent option for the FACC headquarters, especially partnered with La French Tech and OVHcloud US, their alternative cloud provider.

“We have such a great international presence. The Curiosity Lab can act as a launch pad for these startups expanding in the United States, and potentially beyond,” Neely said.

She recollected the first French startup to join Curiosity Lab through the FACC and the La French Tech program, Urban Canopee. “They make structures that are placed in urban environments to help bring greenery back to the space, keep the air cleaner and fight climate change,” Neely explained. “We actually have one deployed in the city of Peachtree Corners Town Center.”

You may have seen the ‘corolle’ there; it’s a modular, vegetation-covered installment intended to cool down concrete city expanses by “greening them up.”

At the first ever Crystal Pitch Competition this past October, part of the France-Atlanta event series that has been running for 13 years, Neely witnessed some startups present their exciting entrepreneurial undertakings. She shared a look of intense satisfaction.

“You can see through [this] event, Atlanta is growing as a technology hub,” Neely said. “It’s being recognized across the country now as having a healthy startup ecosystem. We’re really happy to be a part of that.”

The Crystal Pitch StartUp competition

Presenters from Strapt Vending, Rebillia Platform ADAXIS and Videtics. Photos courtesy of La French Tech Atlanta.

The October 24th France-Atlanta Evening in Tech was held at Georgia Tech and sponsored by Morgan Stanley, Peachtree Corners, OVHcloud US, Orbiss Inc. and Georgia Tech. Valuable startup pointers and insights were shared by seasoned entrepreneurs and keynote speakers Christine de Wendel, CEO of sunday; Bruno Jactel, CEO of Pertinent Health, who later pivoted and also pitched his startup Hypercell; Pascal Jaillon, SVP of Product and Digital Accounts at OVHcloud US; and Stanislas Normand, Exotec VP of Operations.

Presenters from Strapt Vending, Rebillia Platform ADAXIS and Videtics. Photos courtesy of La French Tech Atlanta.

The Shark Tank-type competition ensued, highlighting Atlanta’s growing La French Tech community aimed at expanding local and France-based startups in Atlanta, the Southeast and in Europe. The atmosphere was exhilarating; it was “on” between five startup companies.

Presenters from Strapt Vending, Rebillia Platform ADAXIS and Videtics. Photos courtesy of La French Tech Atlanta.

Entrepreneurs had a limited time to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges in the hopes of winning prizes like $120,000 in OVHcloud US credits, a year of desk space at Curiosity Lab, tax and accounting support from Orbiss Inc., two tickets to the France-Atlanta Gala (the signature business event of the FACC) and mentoring by La French Tech and French Trade advisors.

Presenters from Strapt Vending, Rebillia Platform ADAXIS and Videtics. Photos courtesy of La French Tech Atlanta.

The competing startups

Covering their inventive solutions, future plans and the global impact their businesses will have, the startups presented in the following order:

  • Strapt Vending — Recognizing a change in consumer purchasing, Founder and CEO Carly Simenauer developed dispensers as vehicles for consumers to sample products in a controlled way using a QR code. The premise is that users are more engaged after they’ve been able to try a product for free.A rapid authentication process to obtain the free samples allows companies to follow-up with and funnel consumers via email afterwards. Intended for feminine hygiene and personal products, Strapt helps companies bring new products to market.
  • Rebillia Platform — Co-Founder and CEO Snir Avidan presented flexible subscription management software that puts today’s consumer in control. Apparently, allowing customers to create their own subscription plans was a real hit.There are four million end users of this system, it forms the backbone of several famous brands and it has all been through word of mouth. They’re proud to have spent $0 on marketing.
  • VideticsVidetics offers intelligent video analytics software, AI for the sake of mankind – think a surveillance revolution, of sorts — for security, to track shopping habits in a mall or to address congestion and mobility shifts in cities. Deep Learning Engineers Alan Farbach, co-counder and CEO, and Pierre-Alexis Le Borgne, co-founder and head of research, pitched their simple business model.A license per camera costs 500 € annually and the software can be integrated so clients may keep what they’ve already installed. They hope to experiment in Peachtree Corners, testing the accuracy of their algorithms.
  • Hypercell Technologies Bruno Jactel, CEO and co-founder, delivered the winning pitch of the night with a solution to help prevent future pandemics by implementing rapid diagnostic monitoring and control of viruses in the food chain, specifically in animal reservoirs. Due to recent events, the appeal of mitigating the spread of infectious diseases to reduce cost and shield the human population is easy to appreciate.
  • ADAXIS —Based in Bayonne, France, this company aims to streamline the additive manufacturing industry by reducing human intervention. They’ve created a software platform capable of transforming any robot into a flexible 3D printer and have shown promising traction with over 30 customers in Europe, America and Asia.

Vive la réussite!

When I inquired about the criteria for participation in the Crystal Pitch competition, Sébastien Lafon, President of La French Tech Atlanta replied, “It was really for U.S. startups with the ambition to launch their businesses in Europe, using France as a platform. For French startups, it was to see how they are thinking about their business plan to expand into the United States. No series A, B, C or D. We just want to create those relationships between French and American startups!”

KatherineLafourquade, Executive Director of the French American Chamber of Atlanta. Photo courtesy of Katherine Lafourquade.

Lafon views Peachtree Corners as an invigorating place for the opening of La French Tech Atlanta. “You can see how Curiosity Lab continues to generate interest. We had several companies today that are interested in partnering with Curiosity Lab for the Smart City concept. We are incredibly fortunate and thankful to partner with Curiosity Lab,” he said.

Kelsey Neely PR and Strategy Representative at Curiosity Lab in Peachtree Corners. Photo courtesy of Kelsey Neely.

On the heels of their first anniversary at Curiosity Lab, Lafon declared, “We are happy we had an event like this. Twenty-two startups applied for the competition. This event generated so much interest, we’ll see about maybe having it twice a year.”

President of La French Tech Atlanta, Sebastien Lafon. Photo by Patrizia Winsper.

More La French Tech social events that foster French-American startup relationships can be expected.

As for the FACC, all signs point to Lafourcade having every reason to be confident in her snowball-effect vision of the future: increasing members and interest, creating additional connections and helping even more businesses. It’s a plan that seems destined to materialize, in large part, because they are now headquartered in Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners.  As if our fair city wasn’t alluring enough, the French connection gives Peachtree Corners an additional dose of je ne sais quoi, wouldn’t you agree?

Patrizia hails from Toronto, Canada where she earned an Honors B.A. in French and Italian studies at York University, and a B.Ed. at the University of Toronto. This trilingual former French teacher has called Georgia home since 1998. She and her family have enjoyed living, working and playing in Peachtree Corners since 2013.

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VyStar Credit Union Continues Growth in Georgia with the Opening of a Peachtree Corners Branch



A grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony is scheduled for May 29, 2024

VyStar Credit Union has to announced that its Peachtree Corners location is now open at 5125 Peachtree Parkway in Peachtree Corners. This is VyStar’s fifth full-service branch in Metro Atlanta and joins branches in Stockbridge, Suwanee, Smyrna and Marietta.

In support of its purpose to “Do Good,” VyStar partners with non-profit organizations across the communities it serves. VyStar will make a $5,000 donation to the Rainbow Village to celebrate the grand opening of the Peachtree Corners branch at the ribbon cutting event in late May.

“VyStar’s first branch in Gwinnett will provide residents and business owners with better banking options, including free checking, access to early direct deposit, great rates, financial wellness education through VyStar’s Financial Fitness initiative, and unbelievable member-centric service that only a credit union can provide,” said VyStar EVP/Chief Operations Officer Chad Meadows.

The Peachtree Corners branch features VyStar’s digital-forward design, which enhances how employees connect with members. This includes interactive touchscreen kiosks that provide financial tools and allow members to quickly explore the latest products, services and rates. 

Lobby and drive-thru hours for the Peachtree Corners branch are Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

VyStar continues to work with local organizations to build up the communities it serves. In Metro Atlanta, that includes supporting the Atlanta Community Food Bank, Junior Achievement of Georgia, Frontline Housing Inc., H.E.R.O. For Children and many others.

“Each time VyStar opens a new branch, it is another opportunity for us to support our purpose to Do Good. With eight full-service branches now in Georgia and our first Contact Center in Metro Atlanta, VyStar is able to provide residents and area businesses with exceptional financial products along with personalized service,” said VyStar SVP/Georgia Market President Janean Armstrong.

VyStar has seven additional locations in Georgia: Marietta, Smyrna, Suwanee, Stockbridge, Brunswick, Savannah and Thomasville, with plans to open branches in Pooler, Kingsland and Peachtree City over the next year.

The credit union is also expanding its services in Florida with a third branch in Tallahassee scheduled to open in May followed by a branch opening in the Lake Nona area in August.

To celebrate the grand opening, the community is invited to a ribbon cutting ceremony on May 29, 2024, at 10:30 a.m. Learn more about the Peachtree Corners branch.

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Kendra Scott Opens New Store At The Forum



Kendra Scott

Kendra Scott is celebrating the opening of its newest store in Peachtree Corners the weekend of May 10 at The Forum.

Upon opening, the 2,263 square foot store will display Kendra Scott’s current collections. The store will also showcase the brand’s unique Color Bar, offering shoppers an interactive experience to create customized jewelry in minutes and leave with it in hand.

Worn by celebrities including Hailey Bieber, Camila Cabello, Mindy Kaling, Zendaya and Kelly Clarkson, Kendra Scott’s collections are known for their custom-created stone shapes, genuine materials and design details.

This will be Kendra Scott’s first store in Gwinnett County, which joins five other retail locations in Georgia.

The brand will continue to show its support for the community through partnerships with non-profits and local businesses. For the grand opening weekend, Kendra Scott Peachtree Corners will host various non-profits for Kendra Gives Back events, donating a percentage of proceeds directly back to the causes.

Kendra Scott hosts more than 10,000 Kendra Gives Back events in retail stores annually and looks forward to establishing relationships and connecting with the Gwinnett County community.

“We’re excited to continue introducing the community to new brands, bites and events at The Forum as part of our vision to create downtown Peachtree Corners. Kendra Scott will be a welcome addition, providing our guests a top-notch experience to shop its unique offerings in person,” said Charlotte Hinton, The Forum marketing manager.

Doors will open on Friday, May 10, at 10 a.m. with celebrations throughout the weekend, including giveback events, gifts with purchase and giveaways. RSVP for more details here.

Upcoming events:

  • Friday, May 10 from 10-12 p.m. – Kendra Scott Peachtree Corners is partnering with The Forum for a VIP event. Supporters who spend $100 will receive a special jewelry gift with purchase.* Guests will also enjoy refreshments from Giulia, The Italian Bakery.
  • Friday, May 10 from 5-7 p.m. – Kendra Scott Peachtree Corners is partnering with the Norcross High School Cheer Team and donating 20% of proceeds. Supporters who spend $100 will receive a special gift with purchase* Guests can also receive a custom embroidered bow from Quiet Hours Embroidery with purchase.
  • Saturday, May 11 from 4-6 p.m. – Kendra Scott Peachtree Corners is partnering with Spectrum Autism Support Group and donating 20% of proceeds. Supporters who spend $100 will receive a special gift with purchase.* Guests will also enjoy complimentary cotton candy from Wonder Soirée with every purchase.
  • Sunday, May 12 from 12-2 p.m. – Kendra Scott Peachtree Corners is celebrating the Community of Motherhood. Supporters who spend $100 will receive a special gift with purchase.* Guests will also receive a complimentary Mother’s Day bouquet of flowers from Nancy’s Flower Truck.

*One per person while supplies last.

Kendra Scott Peachtree Corners is located at 5155 Peachtree Parkway, Suite 710 in Peachtree Corners at The Forum. For companywide updates and product details, follow @kendrascott on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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BRACK: Peachtree Corners to lose Peterbrooke Chocolatier



Scottt Gottuso and Geoffrey Wilson.
Scottt Gottuso and Geoffrey Wilson. Photo provided.

Peachtree Corners will soon lose one of its most iconic, popular and tasty businesses.

Peterbrooke Chocolatier, run by Geoffrey Wilson and Scott Gottuso, has been told by Peachtree Forum landlords, North American Properties and Nuveen Real Estate, that its lease will not be renewed. The last day of business will be July 25.

Meanwhile, Peachtree Forum is getting several new stores. They include Kendra Scott, Sucre, and The NOW Massage. Previously announced were Alloy Personal Training, Cookie Fix, Gallery Anderson Smith, Giulia, Lovesac, Nando’s Peri-Peri and Stretchlab. Wilson adds: “We are not in their big picture.”

Wilson has operated Peterbrooke at the Peachtree Forum for 14 years and Gottuso has been there nine years. They have made the chocolatier profitable and doubled sales. Wilson says: “We turned it around through community involvement and made relationships. We worked with the schools, gave donations, did a lot in the community, and made a difference. We produce most everything we sell in the shop, so it’s labor intensive. We make European-style chocolate treats from scratch from the very best ingredients, package it, make gift baskets, and also sell a lot of gelato.”

Key items include truffles, hand-made caramels, cherry cordials, chocolate-covered cookies and pretzels and strawberries hand-dipped in their own blend of chocolates. (They are all good!) One of Wilson’s and Gottuso’s most iconic products is chocolate popcorn. Once you try it, regular popcorn is tasteless. “We sell a lot of it.” Wilson adds: “Gelato sales have carried us in the summertime, since there are not many chocolate holidays in the summer.”

Peterbrooke now has five employees, and would like to have 10, but it is difficult to hire people with the skills in chocolatiering. A key part of its business is corporate companies, such as Delta Air Lines and Capital Insight. The Peachtree Corners’ Peterbrooke has corporate customers as far away as Cleveland, Ohio.

The operators were surprised when the Forum owners did not renew its five year lease. “The big decisions were made in Charlotte or Cincinnati, not locally,” Wilson feels. “We were no longer in their big picture. They want new and glitzy, shiny, fancy and trendy.”

The operators plan to start their own chocolate company, to be called “Scoffrey,” and initially sell online, plus have pop-up locations during holidays, and possibly have a booth in other merchants’ stores on occasions.

“Whatever we do would look different. We might rent a space somewhere close by so that people can still have the good chocolate experience with us, but we won’t have a regular audience walking by.”

Another element: the price of chocolate futures has spiked this year, with a bad crop production year. Wilson says: “That is key to our business and a huge cost increase. That doesn’t help.”

Wilson adds that the forced closing of the Peterbrooke location “is something like the death of a friend. But you go to the funeral and to the wake, and in six months or a year, It won’t be so bad.”

Have a comment?  Send to: elliott@elliottbrack

Written by Elliott Brack

This material is presented with permission from Elliott Brack’s GwinnettForum, an online site published Tuesdays and Fridays. To become better informed about Gwinnett, subscribe (at no cost) at GwinnettForum

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