At Mamamia, we want to acknowledge and celebrate the Australian men who are doing good things and trying to make our country a better place. So we came to you with a list of 100 great Aussie men and asked you to decide Mamamia’s 50 Best Blokes. This week, we’ll be counting down the top ten and announcing who you chose as Mamamia’s Best Bloke on Friday. We’re so pleased to present Lucas Prachett and Nicholas Marchesi – who came in at number five.
What were you doing when you were 21?
Our guess is, it wasn’t starting an ingenious charity you found with your best friend to helps hundreds of people in need on a daily basis, and now has operations all around Australia.
Meet Lucas Prachett and Nicholas Marchesi. These 21-year-old Brisbane natives started mobile laundry company, Orange Sky Laundry 18 months ago and have recently been named the Young Australians of the Year. They are bona fide wunderkinds.
Orange Sky Laundry is a world-first, volunteer-led charity which aims to help the most vulnerable people in society, the homeless. Armed with vans filled with washing machines, Lucas, Nicholas and 500 of their fellow volunteers drive around their respective cities every day washing clothes for those without a roof over their heads.
The operation, founded in July 2014 has grown from two men and a van to 500 volunteers, 11 vans and 12 locations. Orange Sky has just announced they are expanding their venture to include a mobile shower van, which they built from scratch. Homeless individuals in Brisbane can now do their washing but also have a nice, warm shower thanks to Lucas and Nicholas's hard work.
"You put a smile on my face" Brad is having a bad day because this is second Christmas without his 3 kids. We were able to get him on the phone to them and also wash his clothes. Thank you for your ongoing generosity and support, together as the Orange Sky Family we can make small but valuable impacts for those that need it the most on a day like today #oslaundryauAdvertisement
We spoke to Lucas early one morning over phone. While we chatted, he stood in a warehouse where he was overseeing the completion of van number nine, set to head out to Canberra in the coming weeks.
How did you and Nick meet?
"Nick and I met in high school when we were 13. We became good mates through a leadership position we both held at school and stayed mates after we finished highschool."
How did you find the transition from friends to business partners?
"We haven't really had to make that transition. We're both still just volunteers, yet now we have more people who rely on us. We still know how to have fun and not take things too seriously. This company is our lives for the time being and we spend all of our time doing this. We see each other every single day."
How did you come up with the idea to start Orange Sky Laundry?
"It was something we talked about straight after school. We wanted to find a way to give back to the community. Initially we thought of a food van but wanted to do something different. It didn't kick off until three years after we finished high school and I'd come home from some time travelling overseas. I had limitless time on my hands and needed something to do. That's when Nick and I came up for the idea for a mobile laundry service for the homeless. We began to tee up meetings with laundry suppliers. The more support we received the more people began to believe in our idea."
How much has the operation grown since you started it?
"We started it as a fun project in 2014, just Nick me and a couple of mates. From there we build a team of 40 volunteers in Brisbane and now it's expanded to a team of 500 all over Australia. It all began with Nick and I, an old van and now I'm looking at van number nine as we speak which is about to be sent to Canberra."
What advantages were there to starting a business at such a young age?
"We had a drive for a lot of different things. The biggest advantage was we had no preconceived notion with how to go about this and we saw everything through the lense of a beginner. Meeting people and seeing people use our service is what keeps us going."
How do you fund this venture if it's purely on a volunteer basis?
"We both live at home and live with our parents. One big goal for this year is not to be relied on every single day so we can get some paid work on the side. Spending the last 18 months of our lives has been a massive risk on our part, but we have spent every day learning and growing as a person."
A message from the Orange Sky Laundry boys. (Post continues...)
What's the 10-year plan for Orange Sky Laundry?
"If I'd said 18 months ago I'd be where I am now, I would never have guessed this. I would have thought I'd be off travelling again. Our big plan is to evolve and grown Orange Sky Laundry and help people every day all across the world. Eventually we want to remove ourselves from the venture and for it to be sustainable with the key being to keep the culture we've fostered among a strong group of people.
I think in 10 years we'd love to see vans all around the world. We've begun to partner up with hospitals and employ the homeless people we wash the clothes for to wash clothes for them, so we want to keep helping people as much as we can. Ultimately we want to stay agile and reactive, we don't want the people we're helping to stay set in their ways. We want to help them get off the street."
You were named the Young Australians of the Year this year - a huge feat. How did that feel?
"Incredibly humbling. We went to Canberra not expecting anything and we met seven other young Australians from all around the country. When we arrived we hadn't even written a speech, we never expected to get it. So we're making the most of the opportunity by spreading the word. We're just very lucky to have such a great team."
What does a normal day look like to you?
"Every day is different. We'll get up early and go out in the van in Brissy [sic]. The reason we do what we do is to be out on the streets helping people so we make sure we do that every day. Then we'll have meetings with suppliers, and some days we do presentations to schools and corporate groups. At the moment we're doing a lot of interstate travel around all of our different locations. We literally do everything from overseeing the van being built to talking to sponsors. We're pretty impatient people so we like to make sure everything's getting done."
What advice would you give others who want to start a charity?
"We have learnt endless lessons. The biggest advice from Nick and I is to find something you're passionate about. If you really believe in the cause you can make it happen and won't let anything get in your way. We believed in it and we pushed it. A lot of people said it wouldn't work, but it's all about being different and innovative."