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Ashoka and Staples Announce First Four Winners of Annual Youth Social Entrepreneur Competition
Four Young Entrepreneurs Addressing Social Issues to Speak at TEDxYSE Event

ARLINGTON, Va., Sep 10, 2010 (BUSINESS WIRE) --

Ashoka, the world's community of leading social entrepreneurs, and Staples, Inc. (NASDAQ: SPLS), announced today the first four winners of eight in the annual Staples/Ashoka Youth Social Entrepreneur Competition. The global competition highlights youth-led innovations addressing social issues affecting their communities, and is part of Ashoka's Youth Venture(R), an initiative that fosters young entrepreneurs to become changemakers, people who are creating positive change in communities around the world. Since 2006, Staples Foundation for Learning, the charitable arm of Staples, Inc., has enabled Youth Venture to expand to eight countries in North America, South America and Europe through more than $2.5 million in funding.

"Staples and Ashoka understand the value that changemakers bring to anything they do and are heavily invested in helping more people become changemakers," said Gretchen Zucker, executive director of Ashoka's Youth Venture. "They are critical to the success of any organization, company or community, and together they form a powerful force for improving lives. Our Staples/Ashoka Competition winners, sourced from hundreds of entries spanning 44 countries, are demonstrating just how much one person can do to make a mark in the world, but the most important contribution we can make is to help everyone around us become changemakers."

The first four winners of the Staples/Ashoka Youth Social Entrepreneur Competition are:

  • Rebecca Kantar is a founding member of Minga, a youth-run civic organization dedicated to ending the global child sex trade through educating teens worldwide. Rebecca serves as Minga's Director of Film Media and is a highly accomplished public speaker. She has been named as one of TIME Magazine's Tomorrow25 and will be attending Harvard University as a freshman in September.
  • Mohammed Berry, of the Republic of the Gambia, has a truly inspiring story of leadership and perseverance. Mohammed lost his father and contracted HIV at age 7 and faced enormous social stigma and discrimination in his community. He is the founder of Aid for Smiles, a coalition of global social activists who work toward empowering and mainstreaming marginalized and socially disadvantaged young people. He also leads Speak AIDS, a campaign that confronts the misunderstanding and stigma associated with HIV-positive youth. Mohammed was recently nominated for the World Children Peace Prize.
  • Shiv Dravid is the founder and creator of The Viewspaper, a youth journalism website for young people in India. Shiv was inspired to take action when he realized that his own daily experiences were quite different from the observations and discussions amongst media elites. The Viewspaper is seen by more than 150,000 readers a month and publishes daily articles written by youth staff writers. Over the last three years they have engaged close to 4,000 young people in sharing their views and opinions and have emerged as India's largest youth paper. Shiv has ambitious plans to scale his work and hopes to branch out to 50 sites within the next year.
  • Ben Lyon was inspired to create FrontLineSMS:Credit while traveling abroad in Uganda and East Timor. During his travels, Ben witnessed how communities and families in these countries were devastated by natural disasters like hurricanes and how soldiers did not receive the support they needed when returning home from war. Today, Ben is pioneering technology that is connecting microfinance institutions to their borrowers via cell phones in Sierra Leone. Ben is using his knowledge in economics and international studies to make a positive impact on these people and their communities. Ben has been selected an "Unreasonable Fellow" by the Unreasonable Institute, which attractsup to 25 high-impact, young social entrepreneurs from across the globe for a ten week conference.

"Together, Staples and Ashoka are providing young entrepreneurs with a chance to show how their Ventures are creating a positive, lasting impact in communities all around the world," said Paul Capelli, vice president of community and public relations, Staples. Inc. "These first four finalists bring unique approaches to effecting social change, and serve as motivators to inspire young people to initiate and lead their own social change."

The eight winners of the Staples/Ashoka Youth Social Entrepreneur Competition will receive cash awards, consulting from Staples executives and an all-expenses-paid trip to speak at TEDxYSE, a Youth Venture-hosted conference which will be held at the Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC on Nov. 13. TEDxYSE leverages the global TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference model of thought leaders, which enables local community groups to organize, design and host their own independent, TED-like events. Actor James Cromwell will be the opening speaker at the event. For more information, please visit http://www.tedxyse.com. Tickets for the event will go on sale today and are available at http://www.tedxyse.com/register.

The competition is open to existing and new Youth Venture teams comprised of young people between the ages of 12-24, who are creating entrepreneurial ventures that make a positive impact on communities. Nominations and entries will be accepted on a rolling basis through Sept. 30, 2010. For additional information on the Staples/Ashoka Youth Social Entrepreneur Competition, please visit the competition web site at: http://www.genv.net/en-us/staples-yse.

About Youth Venture

Ashoka's Youth Venture aims to help an entire generation of young people develop as changemakers, who will improve their communities now and throughout their lives. Youth Venture inspires and supports teams of young people to launch and lead their own civic-minded organizations and businesses. Youth Venture was created by Ashoka, the global pioneer of the social entrepreneurship sector and the world's biggest network of changemakers. We believe that the greatest contribution we can make to the world is to increase dramatically the number of changemakers today and in every future generation. This is the key factor for success for every part of society, from a school to a company to an entire country. Ashoka's Youth Venture operates in 18 countries and engages 75,000 young people. www.GenV.net.

About Ashoka

Ashoka is the world's community of leading social entrepreneurs--individuals with innovative and practical ideas for addressing social needs. Working with these social entrepreneurs, Ashoka builds communities of innovators who work collectively to transform society and design new ways for the social sector to become more productive, entrepreneurial and globally integrated. For more information, please visit www.ashoka.org.

About Staples

Staples, the world's largest office products company, is committed to making it easy for customers to buy a wide range of office products and services. Our broad selection of office supplies, electronics, technology and office furniture as well as business services, including computer repair and copying and printing, helps our customers run their offices efficiently. With 2009 sales of $24 billion and 91,000 associates worldwide, Staples operates in 26 countries throughout North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australia serving businesses of all sizes and consumers. Staples invented the office superstore concept in 1986 and today ranks second worldwide in e-commerce sales. The company is headquartered outside Boston. More information about Staples (Nasdaq: SPLS) is available at www.staples.com/media.

SOURCE: Staples, Inc.

Staples, Inc.
Briana Curran, 508-253-0203
briana.curran@staples.com
or
for Ashoka's Youth Venture
Tina Choi, +44 782 730 8841
tchoi@ashoka.org