SKY IS THE LIMIT FOR ORANGE SKY LAUNDRY
23 September 2016, Written by James Perkins
WHEN Lucas Patchett talks about the people he and Nic Marchesi help through their charity Orange Sky Laundry, he calls them his "homeless friends", and that really gets to the crux of what their enterprise is about.
It is not only a service to wash clothes, or have a shower, but one where people can talk and get support while they sit on the orange chairs around each of the charity's 10 mobile laundries and wait for their washing to be done.
The idea is one that Patchett and Marchesi, both aged 22, sat on for around 18 months while Patchett was working in Canada and the United States. With time on his hands upon his return to Brisbane, it was the ideal time to make it happen.
"Nick and I are curious people and are interested in innovative ways to help people," Patchett tells Business News Australia.
"Where we get our motivation from is finding ways to help people. It's simple, but effective."
Patchett, an engineering student, got to work fitting out a van with washing machines alongside his friend Marchesi.
"We started the first van pilot project to test the waters and see the impact we could have," he says.
"This is something that had not been done anywhere else in the world. We built the van in October 2014 and three months later we had funding for our second van."
Quantifying the cost of a load of washing at $6 gave potential donors the feeling they could make a difference and the pair had soon raised $2,500 from people all over the world.
"Straight away people thought this was a great idea. People were really buying into the concept of two young blokes from Brissie giving it a go," Patchett says.
Now, Orange Sky Laundry has 10 vans across Australia, 10 staff and 622 volunteers washing 7.2 tonnes of laundry each week while providing 1,200 hours of 'positive, genuine conversations' every week.
A new van containing two showers and two basins rolled out in Brisbane one month ago in a new trial.
The pair were named the Young Australians of the Year in 2016 for their efforts.
"It has been a massive learning experience as we have made our own way," Patchett says.
"We have a habit of saying 'yes' to opportunities and that is a strength and a weakness, but we are fast-paced and enjoy a moving environment. We love learning."
Where do they get that curiosity and desire to help?
"Lots of different places," Patchett says. "It's something we have been exposed to from a very early age through the culture in our families and in our school life."
It's an inspiring story and one that Patchett and Marchesi will share at the Gold Coast when they speak at the Big Blue Sky event on 7-8 October.
"We love to share the Orange Sky Laundry story and the evolution of it going forward," says Patchett.
"This began as a fun garage project that took us 24 months to do. Now we are an organisation with one million dollars' worth of vans and assets.
"It shows that a simple idea can have a massive impact on our homeless friends."
It's been a wild ride so far for Patchett and Marchesi, and Patchett says he didn't imagine that their concept would have enjoyed such success.
"If you asked me about the future of Orange Sky Laundry 23 months ago, I wouldn't have told you that we would have 10 vans," he says.
"We are on a constant trajectory to help as many people as we possibly can, whether that is with 20 washing vans, or 10 washing vans and 10 shower vans, we don't know.
"I want people all around the world to have access to free mobile laundries. We are at the forefront of the world and I am excited what is around the corner, whether it is 12 months or 12 years."
Big Blue Sky will bring together thought leaders from a cross-section of industries with the aim of creating moonshot projects to create a more resilient Gold Coast.