30 June 2007

Staples & Ashoka Rock Out With “Party Republic”

Youth Venture’s international expansion has been funded in several countries by Staples, the office supply store. In Germany, both organizations are relatively knew, so Staples invited Youth Venture to their annual corporate showcase to speak about what we do. Lilli and Sophie, our team in Germany, had to sum it all up into an 8-minute blurb that they then repeated SIXTY times to small groups of managers and corporate execs. SIXTY TIMES!

After a short break at Sophie’s parents’ house (I got to go swimming, take a long bath and read in the garden) we headed outside Koln to a once-factory and warehouse that had been transformed into an uber-party extravaganza and let me tell you, it was nothing like what you’d find at a corporate party in America.

It kicked off with a man juggling…and juggling…and juggling, to which the packed audience responded with numerous “Oohs and Ahhs.” This was followed by a rather long presentation of awards and accolades, which led to another juggling break and finally, the “staff member and store of the year” awards. After each winner was announced, the DJ would crank up “Simply the Best,” the US classic rock song. I heard the segment “Simply the Best. Better than all the rest” at least 25 times.

Next came the sing-along section of the evening. All 250 trainees – those people who did not go to University and instead enrolled in a one-year training program with Staples – took the stage to sing the “Staples Song,” complete with dance moves, solos and a big finish that evoked tears from some. Throughout the entire piece the audience took to their feet, doing the wave with lighters in their hands. I, of course, joined right in (minus the lighter), photographing the entire escapade, thinking about what a great blog entry this evening would make. I mean, the corporate love and excitement and unity that Staples had built here in Germany was inspiring. I was getting chills!

At this point it was time to eat. They announced just that: “Go eat,” and all 500 people in attendance headed to the bar at the same time. It was madness! Pasta, wok ingredients, salad and beef were flying all over the place as people dove into every course of the meal all at once. Lilli and I grabbed the last two forks in the bin, wrestling them away from some girl who was clearly in the “cool kids” clique in high school and now enjoyed bullying foreigners and people working in the social sector.

From here we ate…and ate…and ate. Ready to work it off, we welcomed to the stage “Party Republic,” the GREATEST COVER BAND OF ALL TIME. The lead singer, a Brit, opened by saying “Staples crew, are you ready to rock,” in her perfectly rockable British accent. The crowd went wild, and we danced for a solid two hours.

The highlights had to have been Santana’s “The Game of Love,” which included a riveting solo by the Portuguese guitarist, and the Scissor Sister’s “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’,” which had a new bongo section solo that I don’t remember from the original…the 65-year-old Moroccan on drums did a fabulous job with that.

At 2AM, after some girl wearing a really long red dress ran off with my tie, we decided to call it a night. Stomachs full, our need to groove fulfilled, we left the Germans of Staples to rock the night away with their newest sensations, “Party Republic.” Rock on. Rock on.

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