An unknown universe to some, Big Data is music to the ears of mathematician Bénédicte de Raphélis Soissan.
For one evening, the French Curiosity Club takes its headquarters to an unusual venue to meet passionate women who share their experiences and Art de Vivre. This idea of non-profit networking came to life thanks to Margaux Hammer, a young lawyer specialising in Intellectual Property Law and New Technology, after a trip to Chicago. Once back in France, she joined up with four friends and founded this start-up with the desire to effectuate inspiring and creative workshops for women. Oenologist, journalist, agronomist or dancer, there are as many different stories as there are professions and passions. After the talk everyone gathers around a drink and can meet the speakers personally. The French Curiosity Club is a place which moves at a great pace. Rather than excluding men, it’s idea is to bring women closer together. Here, enthusiasm is the essential ingredient.
Learn more about the French Curiosity Club’s inspirational rendezvous on their website.
Margaux, Clémence, Océane and Zoé, can you introduce yourselves?
I’m coming from the southwest of France but I have been living in Paris for 5 years. I am a lawyer specialised in intellectual property and new technologies law: I’m passionate about it! It perfectly balances with the French Curiosity Club, which leads to me to meet more people. I’m the one who finds our talkers, meets them, looks for the places and coordinates the project and the team.
I have been a graphic designer and artistic director for two years. I spent some time in agencies and I am now self-employed. I joined the French Curiosity Club team at the beginning of the adventure, completely excited about Margaux’s project. I’m working on the French Curiosity Club graphic identity and visually enliven the association. It’s something I like and that enables me to give meaning to an occupation which sometimes challenges my values.
Just like Margaux, I’m a lawyer. I meet her during a hackathon organised by the association GEF, in Xavier Niel’s school, 42. Margaux was talking about the FCC. I was there a law coach. A that time, I had just negotiated a part-time contract in my law office. I wanted to start a new activity that would not need me to be always in my law books, that would enable me to organise events and that would feed my curiosity! I’ve always loved meeting inspiring people. These people who are really happy when they tell you about what they do, about how they started their job or committed to a cause: a life they choose actually. So when Margaux talked – for only 1 minute – about an association which enables to regularly meet this kind of people, I was charmed! Then it was all very quick and simple. It’s just like Margaux! She follows her instinct and dares, which gives something “fresh” and simple to the relationships. I’m sure people can fell this spirit in our events. The goal is mainly to work with young brands so people can know about them. Run by women, if possible. But we are not rigid! We have been working with a talented caterer for two years: Alix Hart de Keating. And for every event, we wear the creations of a new fashion or jewellery designer. We talk about them on our social networks and we keep an eye on them after the talks. The events can help them to meet interesting people. That’s how a jewellery designer has been invited to sell her creations for Christmas in a great company. Another one joined a small group of entrepreneurs in which a girl of the French Curiosity Club was working.
I’m an independent photographer and I work part-time for the magazine Usbeck & Rica. I joined the French Curiosity Club one year ago, I’ve always been a fan! I work on all the photography part, from the invitation to the event itself. The places, partners and guests are always different, I never get bored!
How was the French Curiosity Club born?
This idea was born when I was living in Chicago. I have been an intern in a law office there for 6 months. I went to a lot of talks – just like TED – that I loved a lot even before arriving in Chicago. All these debates were very inspiring and they made me want to achieve 1000 projects and to start something. I has a lot of ideas! I hoped I could attend to more back to Paris but, apart from the TEDx, I didn’t know a lot of them. This is how the French Curiosity Club was born. A desire to bring a bit of that American spirit (everything is possible, achieve your dreams and projects) in Paris. The girls joined the team little by little. We didn’t know each other at all before. For the first talk, the idea was more to gather friends in an apartment to listen one of us talk about a theme she was passionate about. People fast loved our concept and our apartments have never been the places we chose for the events!
I loved the idea straightaway. I think we really need to hear positive talks and the stories of beautiful initiatives. It gives the courage and energy to start new adventures. A few weeks after we met, we had the first FCC. It was with Marjolaine Chatin, about wine and oenology, and it was fascinating!
As for me, I joined the adventure a bit later. The French Curiosity Club had been existing for one year. Sophie was back in Chicago and the girls were looking for some help. My first French Curiosity Club was the one with Laure de Sagazan, which occurred in her workshop, a magic place! I love the fact of changing the place every time. It requires a lot of work but it brings changes, the French Curiosity Club are always different and unique – just like our talkers actually!
How did you choose the speakers?
It’s very diverse. It can be women we know, women we’ve been recommended or some women we read something about. They are all very open to our project and almost everyone says yes. It encourages us to always ask, even when it seems impossible. Our friends and families know we are constantly looking for inspiring women, so they always have ideas for us! We also look a lot on the Internet and always learn about someone we all like!
When we hear about a woman with an atypical, brave and inspiring career, we talk about it. We talk about our ideas and the articles we are interested in. Margaux is the one who contacts the girls. Then, we meet them for a coffee to introduce ourselves and we try to schedule a talk as soon as possible. We see each other a last time before the talk so we can guide them a little. It’s always very natural and simple. It’s important that every talker remain natural; we don’t want to have standardised speeches.
We often hear that the girls are boosted, the head in the stars, inspired and that they have met people.
By the way, is it always going to be women?
Yes. It’s the original concept and we want to maintain it, even if sometimes people challenge us on this aspect! The origin of the project was to stimulate kindness between women, which was not that easy to find everywhere. But we also wanted to spend “ladies” nights as we liked to do it before. We actually the women attending the events really dare asking questions during the talk, and it’s something they wouldn’t always do it the audience was mixed. It may seem odd but it’s true. The issue of the “feminine exclusivity” in our project is a delicate issue because we don’t always know how to act, for example journalists ask us: “are you feminists?” Yes, we must be, since we organise events for women and with women. But there is no revindication in all that, we only want to give a positive, dynamic and lively view of all these projects created by women. Above all, we want to show projects run by women who impress and inspire us and who are different from what we’re used to hear.
Can you tell us what happens during a night with the French Curiosity Club?
In a few words, it’s an unusual night in a relax, warm, friendly and gleeful atmosphere! It really matters to us and we try to do our best! Our guests arrive at 8 p.m. and we welcome them with a glass of champagne and the amazing buffet of our incredible caterer Alix. The talk starts around 8.30/8.45. It’s the main event of our FCC, even if we have other activities around it. During 30 minutes, the women we invited talked about their careers, projects, experiences, dreams and pieces of advice. They are always amazing stories told by humble, funny and dynamic women. At the end, we want to achieve every project and we have a more positive vision of the world than we usually have. Or we simply know more about a new theme we didn’t know about before. After the talk, people can ask questions (always a lot) to the talker. And after the questions there is a buffet dinner and drinks. It’s a fascinating moment for sharing with the other women. It’s also the opportunity to meet new people, find people you could work with or start a project and talk about the night in general! If the FCC leads to new initiatives thanks to the people who meet at that moment, we are glad. And it works. A lot of these women hire our caterer after the talks and meet again to create together.
Moreover – and this is important -, the FCC is about highlighting our ecosystem of feminine start-ups. We were the clothes of fashion designers (Admise, ONY, Zeit Paris Berlin, Médecine Douce, Sanve, Elise Chalmain: we change every time), all our drinks come from companies run by women (Appie, BLIV, Les bouchons d’Anatole, Fine Cocktails), Alix Hart de Keating cooks for us… We invite writers who come and sign their books (such as Sophie Astrabie) and some others come and make ephemeral tattoos our members (such as Nini Peony). These women also have interesting careers and we like to highlight them. They don’t come to do a talk but coming to one of our event is for her the perfect moment to meet a kind audience and to tell their story. Last but not least, we always go to a different and unusual place in Paris, related to the theme of the night when it’s possible! For example, we went to the 106, the Springcourt factory, the Loft 50 Partners, the Brugier Rigail gallery, the COQ Hotel, Laure de Sagazan’s studio…
What are the comments of your community after the events?
People are really enthusiastic! We often hear that the girls are boosted, the head in the stars, inspired and that they have met people. We are glad to hear this. A lot of them are present at every talk, no matter the theme. It’s always very pleasant to see them again! And to meet new people as well, since we are more and more numerous.
The effect of a talk on the girls here to listen is crazy and immediately visible. We feel they are boosted: they smile, talk to each other, keep talking with the talker. Our team tries to blow of wind of curiosity and kindness. We can see this spirit in the talker and the audience.
What are your projects for the future?
The ambition of our project is to become a real club/platform which gathers women who have all types of jobs, passions, projects and backgrounds and to connect them so they can keep inspiring and being inspired, to show them that if they have projects, they must take the plunge! This year, the FCC is going to celebrate its second anniversary and the project is now well set up in Paris. We have more than 2.000 members and all our talks are complete. The programme for 2017 is going to be crazy and it started well with Léonore Baulac, who had just been become a lead dancer of the Opéra Garnier. Our next talk, on March 22nd, will be led by Négar Haeri, an incredible prosecutor and talented pianist! In April, we’ll have Véronique de Viguerie and Manon Querouil-Bruneel, war photo reporters. And there will be a surprise for our summer FCC, the traditional last talk before summer.
We work hard to develop the project and have a lot of ideas! We just need time. Sometimes it’s frustrating, because we don’t have enough time. For example, we’d like to open the FCC in other cities, such as Shanghai, Tokyo, Chicago, New York, London, etc. We are currently working on our website, which will enable to start the social network platform and accelerate the development of our initiatives. We want to take these talks to high schools in the Parisian suburbs so we could have a different audience and bring some hope, desire and motivation to young girls so they could achieve their dreams. Our talkers are the best example! We are currently working on a pilot project and we hope this new version of the FCC will be born in the following weeks. In April, we’ll celebrate the FCC second anniversary with an exceptionally mixed night in order to open the project to all men who would be curious of discovering what we do during these events.
Credits: Eve Campestrini @thesocialitefamily
An unknown universe to some, Big Data is music to the ears of mathematician Bénédicte de Raphélis Soissan.