French District

Published on August 15th, 2014 | by Anne-Fleur Andrle Stephan

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Dump everything for the pleasure of our taste buds?

As an expatriate myself, I know that dumping everything in France to settle down abroad is not something that can be improvised. We go abroad for our studies, to follow a spouse, to begin the job of our dreams or to start up a company?

This month, I would like to introduce you to French people who decided to embark on the adventure, not-so-easy of starting up a new business. Yes but, they have the originality of launching a new concept: the taste!

In brief, todays trip will keep us on the American east coast. The first layover will take place in New York, the city of all possibilities and we will meet David Foult, who founded the “Try the World,” a company allowing subscribers to have a world tour of flavors from every country every other month. We will then continue and end our trip a little further north, in the Boston area where Cécile and François have settled and opened their successful French deli “MA France.”

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Kat & David, co-founders of « Try the World. » Photo by Anne-Fleur Andrle

On our way to New York to meet David…
Let’s begin this tour by New York where I met David, a young French entrepreneur who is 25 years old. David, originally from Paris, arrived in the United States in order to study economics and political science. No more than six months after the beginning of classes, David, who was eager to experience cultural discoveries of all kinds, launched his start-up “Try the world” with his friend Kat. Although his studies certainly prepared him to take on the challenge of entrepreneurship in the United States, David insists on the fact that the most important thing to start such project is passion, not training.

Kat & David, co-founders of “Try the World”
“Try the world” is not a solo adventure since David had the idea of starting this business with Kat, an American woman, and also fond of traveling. Both knew and appreciated the concept of Subscription Boxes (boxes delivered to your home in most cases, to which the customer can subscribe for some time or not, and offering various product lines: from pantyhose to make-up through music and beer) and decided to apply this concept to their passion: discovering the world through tasty treats!

Who is behind “Try the world”? This is the beautiful story of two students in economics from Columbia, Kat, an American, and David, a Frenchman who are both passionate about travel and discovery. Kat and David’s project went through a Google incubator, located in NY, and sold all their stock in just two days, after spending two nights making the boxes themselves by hand! After such quick success, Kat and David decided to rework the whole concept from the start: from the website, to marketing, logistics, etc. and launched “Try the World” just a few month later.

What is “Try the world” ? It is a subscription-based concept, allowing members to receive a gourmet box from a different country every two months for $ 45 per box. The first box is the Paris Box (hence the French !) and gourmets can find a wide variety of French products such as chestnut spread from Clément Faugier, tea from the famous Palais des Thés, salt from “Le Saunier de Camargue,” Dijon mustard (the real thing!), biscuits, tasty sea-salt caramels, nougats, and many other things. I don’t know about you, but this made me hungry! Besides products from France, what does “Try the World” offer ? It depends on the desires and demands of customers. Thus, we can find products from Japan, Brazil, Italy and other nations.

The “Brazil box” and “Japan box”
Speaking of subscribers, who would be interested in such a concept? We would think (it was my case) that the majority of customers are French, homesick expats? In fact, most of the subscribers are Americans! Who said Americans were no adventurers when it comes to food? Well… Me! I confess. For the anecdote, my “trauma” comes from the trade I was involved in: my friends would try Foie Gras along with a glass of Sauternes, only if I accepted to have a PB&J sandwich. Which was definitely not the same style, the same scale, nor the same thing at all. But that is another story.

What can we wish to Kat and David in the future? They want to stay in the U.S. and hope to eventually sell a box from each country, not just in the United States, but also in other countries. We wish them to be very successful!

[Frenchquarter Mag is not the only one who was interested in « Try the world, » BFM TV interviewed David a few days ago.
http://www.bfmtv.com/video/bfmbusiness/grand-journal-new-york/try-the-world-met-monde-boite-nouvelle-levee-fonds-david-foult-grand-journal-new-york-26-07-3-4-213787/ ]
For more info website: http://www.trytheworld.com and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TryTheWorldBox / Instagram & Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/trytheworld/ / Twitter: https://twitter.com/trytheworldbox

Second layover… Boston, MA.
Now let’s head up to Boston, in the heart of New England, a few hundred miles north of the Big Apple.

It is with great pleasure that we now go to Lexington, a few minutes from Boston and meet with Cécile and François, partners at work and in life. Cécile and François are married and are both from our dear Dordogne region, in the South-West of France.

Before their American adventure, Cécile was a hairdresser and had her own salon while François was a police officer. Two careers that did not predict their next step! Next step being to open a French deli in Boston! Their hobbies include travel, motorcycle, soccer, and film. Cécile and François did not hesitate long when the opportunity presented itself. Visiting friends living in the Boston area, Cécile and François fell in love, and soon realized that there was a real lack in terms of products from our land. Despite the fact that they had never lived abroad before, they launched the project « MA France ». However, this kind of adventure does not just happen. It took about two years – back home, to build this beautiful project from A to Z and to build trusting relationships with suppliers offering great quality products.

« MA France » has already been open for a little more than a year. Let’s take a look into this “out-of-the-ordinary” adventure.

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Front window « MA France » of Cécile and François. Photo by Anne-Fleur Andrle

From the beginning of their adventure, Cécile and François understood that their presence on the Internet and social networks was crucial to make a mark on the gourmet landscape of Boston. In the constant search for new items, they screen and select new products to answer their client’s tastes and aspirations. Again, one might think that desperate expatriates are rushing at Cécile and François’, but this is far from the majority of « MA France ‘s » customers. Indeed, many American Francophiles, often returning from a trip to Europe, come to experience their store in hopes of finding some special flavors from their journey.

So leaving everything behind in France to come to the US to open a French high-quality deli, is possible. But, every time I personally try to bring good “homegrown” products into the land of Uncle Sam, people dissuade me. The question is how do Cécile and François make it possible?! Take the example of the famous tartiflette and its Reblochon cheese: yes, unfortunately, Reblochon is a product banned in the United States, but the French farmers have more than one trick up their sleeve! They created the “préféré de nos montagnes,” which is pasteurized and which is only a little different from our dear national Reblochon cheese. Because of these few changes the “préféré de nos montagnes” is allowed in the land of cowboys. It is a little less strong, yes, but full of flavor and the tartiflette I made last winter was very successful.

Cheese, in general, is what one expects to find in a French grocery store, but believe me, going to look at cheese at Cécile and François’ is a wonderful, not common experience. I could feel how happy they were to share their knowledge and sense of taste! As Cécile says, it is a challenge everyday to serve good cheese: they only work with small producers, in order to have no industrial cheese and to maintain their originality and quality. They serve only cheese that is “out of the ordinary”, but laws change every month, and they have to constantly adapt!

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The famous cheese counter from « MA France. » Photo by Anne-Fleur Andrle

Cécile and François have understood the need to have the best possible product to serve the best clientele. Also, it is essential for them to serve good fresh bread and pastries every morning. As Cécile says “What’s more French than a baguette?”. Good point Cécile! Our two young modern times adventurers have gone in search of “THE Baguette” in New England and found a French bakery with whom they now work, out of Cape Cod. In recent months, they developed a partnership with a French pastry chef and added to their products delicious cakes (Eclairs, Paris-Brest, Mille Feuilles, etc..), as well as puff pastry rolls of all kinds, quiches, macaroons whose flavors change each season.

What is the future of “MA France”? Cécile and François calmly consider a swarm of ideas : a pancake shop (the Bretonne that I am deeply hopes this works out!), but also the opening of another shop! To all this are pending steps for authorizations and immigration to extend their adventure on this side of the Atlantic. Fingers crossed that this beautiful project continues!

Here end our tour. This was the story of two very different adventures, who share the desire to allow the tasty discovery of one (or more) culture(s) through gastronomy. Both companies have originality, communality, and nothing in theory had prepared them for such a challenge. Being an entrepreneur takes guts, right?

I wish “good luck” to Cécile, François, Kat and David, and am delighted to have been able to meet them and to share with you a little bit of their adventures.

 


About the Author

Coming from the "Far west" of France, Anne-Fleur grew up in Finistere (Brittany). Currently working in the hightech industry, she represents a French company specialized in smartglasses apps in the US. Engineer by training and based in Boston, she loves to get back to her Briton roots a couple of times a year. After graduating from the Université de Technologie de Compiegne, in France , she decided to pursue her studies in biomedical sciences at the graduate school of the State University of New York (SUNY) in Buffalo, NY. Driven by sciences and her desire to learn, Anne-Fleur hosted a radio show, "les échos de l'innovation" (literally innovation echoes) for a couple of years, offering debates and interviews, aiming to dissect misconceptions in science and technologies for the layman. Always thirsty for discovery, she loves traveling, initiating new projects and exploring the ocean, on a sailing boat or with her snorkel.



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