Jamming brand and social purpose
SCOTT OXFORD 01.893 [music] G'day. I'm Scott Oxford, and welcome to Brand Jam, the podcast where we jam about brand because brand is our jam. [music]
SCOTT OXFORD 16.092 Today, I'm jamming with Lucas Patchett, who, even before he'd finished uni, saw a deep need in society, put his money and his career where his mouth was, and created a brand to connect everyday Australians. He did this through a shower and laundry service that creates a safe, positive, and supportive environment for people who most of us ignore or who feel disconnected from their community. They're volunteers and not social workers or experts in homelessness. They're everyday people who are empathetic listeners and great conversationalists. This is a brand with an incredible purpose that builds deep, meaningful connection. And I can't wait to understand more. Lucas co-founded Orange Sky alongside his best mate, Nic Marchesi, in 2014. Together, they built the first van and Orange Sky was born, and they've helped thousands of people since. Orange Sky now has over 33 laundry and shower services operating across Australia and New Zealand delivering over 260 shifts across every state and territory through almost 2,000 volunteers each week. The focus is on creating a safe, welcoming, and supportive environment for people at their most vulnerable. Since 2014, Orange Sky has provided friends on the street with more than 1.6 million kilos of free laundry, over 17,500 warm, safe showers, and close to 300,000 hours of genuine and non-judgemental conversation. Lucas originally studied a mechanical engineering and commerce degree at uni but chose to leave early in order to focus on Orange Sky. So I think he's the kind of guy that has a pretty interesting personal brand story. And it's going to be just as interesting as Orange Sky's. Let's meet him. Lucas, welcome.
LUCAS PATCHETT 01:58.333 Thanks for having me.
SCOTT OXFORD 01:59.543 It's a pleasure. I want to start with social purpose because we hear a lot of for-purpose businesses and social purpose, and they're not the same thing. So what is a social-purpose business?
LUCAS PATCHETT 02:11.449 I think for us, when we think about our brand and our story, I think social purpose is really before everything, comes impact. And I think before profit, before what you'd normally see, I think, in other brands that claim to be socially purposeful, I think for us, our number one thing is always impact. We're bringing everything back to how many friends, how many people does this support? How many volunteers can we empower with this model, or how many vans can we get out into the community? So that's really our lead indicator. We don't look at profit centres. We look at impact centres. And I think our whole organisation is based around that, and that's how we continue to further our purpose, is really about focusing and honing in on that. So I think for a for-purpose, not-for-profit - there's lots of different names - social enterprises. There's so many different names, but for us, it's about putting that purpose first, and I think that's a really authentic and genuine way for us to do it.
SCOTT OXFORD 03:03.033 Yeah. Absolutely. Well, your product is what you do. There are other social-purpose businesses that do, say, conventional products. And it's in the money that's raised from that they-- they do that like, "Who gives a crap?" who were on the series one. I mean, they fulfil their environmental purpose through the product but their social purpose through what they support, but you guys are absolutely focused and dedicated on providing this. And I sense that you're probably less of a business and much more of a movement and an organisation.
LUCAS PATCHETT 03:37.293 Yeah. I think for us, we've been lucky that we really helped to inspire a bit of a movement with a couple of thousand people jumping on board and volunteering with thousands more who donate financially to us every month and enable our services to continue running. And that movement really started with a little seed that Nic and I planted here in Brisbane about six and a half years ago and now has grown into this incredible tree and all these branches that different people have cultivated and then growing to have beautiful flowers and stuff that have shot off from there. And for us, we're the blokes that planted the seed, which was a really cool and almost spontaneous thing that happened a little while ago.
SCOTT OXFORD 04:13.465 Well, I was going to ask you. You're at uni, so you're early 20s at the most. And where did an idea like this come from?
LUCAS PATCHETT 04:22.451 It really started before we even hit university. We went to school here in Brisbane, and our school actually ran a food service for people doing it tough. So I remember as a 15-year-old getting to school really early, jumping in this van, and driving down to a park and being absolutely terrified and sort of going, "What have I signed myself up to?" It was sort of like a spur-of-the-moment thing as I put my name down at the office. And all of a sudden the next week, I was in this van heading out to this park to feed breakfast to people who are experiencing homelessness. And I remember getting closer and closer to the park and getting just more and more nervous. And as we sort of got to the park, the person driving the van turned around and said, "Guys, I'm going to need a couple of us to cook the barbecue." There's maybe 8 or 10 of us in the van. "The rest of you jump out, have a chat." And I always remember that chat and [inaudible] talking to people just in our backyard who are a kilometre from where I went to school every day who couldn't be in a more different situation to me, who are sleeping rough, who were in affordable accommodation, who slept in cars and tents the previous night. And as a 15-year-old, that, I think, sparked such a big curiosity and desire to want to know more. And for Nick and I, we were very different at school, but we really connected through this concept and idea of helping people and love that opportunity to give back. So I think that planted the seed for us.
LUCAS PATCHETT 05:42.048 And then we sort of went into uni and work full-time as you do. And you kind of leave that part of your life behind you. And I went off overseas for six months, came back, had no job, had no uni starting up for a couple of weeks, and had this free time. And Nick and I, best mates through school, caught up for breakfast. And he sort of said, "I've been thinking about this idea that we'd spoken about for a long time post school," saying, "How do we do some washing and hygiene services for people that we used to cook breakfast for? And I think this is something that had been overlooked. And do you want to--" and I was like, "Mate, I'm not doing anything. Let's crack on. It's a perfect time to do it. Yeah, we don't have kids. We've got no mortgage. Don't have a job that I'm leaving or anything. So let's crack on and give a red hot cracking." And here we are.
SCOTT OXFORD 06:25.988 Yeah. Yeah. We say that brand is in conversations. It's not about a logo. It's all about the conversations. And just one conversation just has become such a huge story. And you call it a little movement, but you've captured the imagination of so many people, which means there are awful lot of people out of there who have read the story correctly and jumped on board. And I'm keen to hear about how the brand transfers a little bit later to volunteers, to those who live the brand every day, but I'm keen before I move on: Orange Sky, what does it mean? Where did it come from?
LUCAS PATCHETT 07:14.353 Yeah. It's our most common question, is where does the name come from? And for us, yeah, we didn't go through a big consultation process, and there wasn't a huge design workshop or anything like that that happened. It was a song that both Nick and I really loved throughout school called Orange Sky. And in the song, Orange Sky talks about helping out your brothers and sisters and everyone standing underneath an orange sky together. And for Nick and I, we're kicking this off. We're talked about, "Do we call it Brisbane Laundry?" And we're like, "Oh, that probably pigeonholes us a little bit." We're not politically or religiously associated, so that sort of ruled out a lot of the other probably not-for-profit names that might be out in the community. And we landed on this idea of Orange Sky. We thought, "Oh, orange is pretty bright colour. We both love the colour. We love the song." And off we went.
SCOTT OXFORD 07:57.720 Yeah. Well, I wouldn't [call it?] theory. But there's always been, in the background of design, the idea that oranges are very optimistic colour. And the other aspect too that we're all sleeping under the same sky, and the people that you help with literally sleep under the sky, a lot of them. So yeah, it's great. And it also has a real point of difference, so from someone looking in who creates brands. And we do naming for-- it's got a freshness and intriguing nature. And what's amazing too is there's no mention of laundry. There's no mention of what you do. It's actually that whole sense of optimism. And how did you find early on in terms of communicating it to others? So it's one thing for the two of you to have a really great-- this incredible sense of purpose and a strong idea of what your brand story was. But how did it go sharing it and--?
LUCAS PATCHETT 08:59.557 I think that when we first started was Orange Sky Laundry. And then as we added showers and start delving into few other communities, that wasn't working anymore. So we stripped it right back to Orange Sky or Orange Sky Australia. But I'm thinking the early days what-- the great thing that we had was a really tangible product. So the van was-- I'm sorry, the logo was slapped on the side of the van, and the van was incredibly engaging and different. And by virtue of just being so different really drew people in. I think even little things like I'm wearing an Orange Sky T-shirt right now [inaudible] another big [inaudible] brand element that we pulled straight away was we want to have T-shirts, want to be casual. We want to be approachable, but we want to have-- that was a really key part of what we do for our volunteers and whatnot now. I mean, such a big part is filling part of the team and having a T-shirt and the merch that goes with it.
LUCAS PATCHETT 09:49.200 But I think, in the early days, what drew people in was absolutely that van, having it so tangible and then [being able to expand it really?] quickly is that, "What do you guys do?" "We've got a van, washing machines, and we drive around and wash people experiencing homelessness clothes for free." And I think just that almost one level of an elevator pitch was really simple and really easy to explain. We always talk about that tangible product and something that people can touch and feel and see very quickly takes away from an idea or concept. And I think homelessness is such a difficult thing for people to understand or grasp and is so complex, and there's so many different layers and elements of it. But something that everyone can understand, I think, is not having clean clothes or feeling disconnected and not having a conversation with someone. So that, I think, starting that story arc with this tangible van was a really cool thing to be able to do.
SCOTT OXFORD 10:42.685 Yeah. I remember very clearly the media when you first got media on the van. I remember showing my wife and thinking, "This is just pure practical solution to a problem that--" because the reality is that when you can't wash, your clothes smell, you're uncomfortable. It's basic human dignity, isn't it? And it's something that, I think, for me, it was a way of connecting someone who wants to do something better but has no means. And that was so enabling and so empowering about the brand. And I think why you've got so many volunteers.
LUCAS PATCHETT 11:23.703 And I think simplicity as well as that breaking it down. And a really simple tangible way for people to help is something that people can really step in and lean into if it is from volunteering perspective or from a donor perspective or purely from telling you, your mom, or your kids, or your grandparents about it. I think that really simple call to action for us has been part of our success as well.
SCOTT OXFORD 11:45.004 Yeah, absolutely. So you've never seen anything before? Anything like it? There's nothing else in the world? It's an obvious thing, and yet that's where great start-ups happen, isn't it? Where someone solves a problem that hasn't been solved.
LUCAS PATCHETT 11:58.347 Yes, it's funny. And when we we talk about it now. People go, "It's such a simple idea. How did I never think of that?" And I think almost it's one of those ideas that everyone thought maybe someone else was doing it or someone was making money from it, or this is something that was done somewhere around the world. And when we kind of started digging into the detail a little bit more, you do your Google searches, and you try and find is there mobile laundry for delivering to people's houses or whatever it might be. And we could find nothing. The only thing we could find sort of similar was in San Francisco. A group started about three months before us and were doing showers for people out of old council buses. So yeah, spoke to them the other day and talked about our experience and their experience and went down slightly different paths. But absolutely, I think it was one of those almost serendipitous moments where this idea was something that, yeah, we'd even talked about for a couple years. And I can still remember the sketch in Nick's notebook about this truck with little washers and dryers in it that had sat there for a couple years. And then it was just that moment of going, "Oh, this is the time. Let's do it." And yeah, a few different things lining up to make it happen.
SCOTT OXFORD 13:05.465 Yeah. There's a lot of talk in start-up world, particularly in the more commercial aspects of start-up world about time and place. And the [Atlassian?] guys, they say that if they had been in Silicon Valley, things wouldn't have worked the way it did. And so it is really time and place. But San Fran, massive homelessness problem. And California, being such legalised drugs, it's almost like this sort of massive, massive problem. And this is a small way to solve it.
LUCAS PATCHETT 13:42.178 Yeah. Absolutely. And I think the group in San Fran was doing some good work. And I think we always look to them to say, "What could Orange Sky look like?" And now, we're still in conversations to say, "What does Orange Sky look like in other parts of the world?" And California has got a homelessness population greater than the whole homeless population of Australia, just within California. Almost within LA, you've got the entire Australian homeless population just there. So yeah, tremendous need and, I suppose, desire for us at some point to do it when the time is right and to support whatever that right way looks as well.
SCOTT OXFORD 14:18.625 Yeah. Well, when did you expand beyond Brisbane? So it started in Brisbane. It's expanded beyond. It's now in New Zealand as well. How did that happen?
LUCAS PATCHETT 14:27.861 Yeah. So we did our first wash in October 2014. And the first kind of couple months, we said, "Let's really bed down the operations. Let's figure out exactly how it all works. Let's try and have as many problems as possible, so that when we do transition to volunteers, we could solve all the problems and work with volunteers." So the first couple of months was really about that. And then we had a random email pop into our email address saying, "Hey, guys, love what you're doing. Would love to have a chat about what you're looking to do in the future." And that was January 2015, so about three months after. And this lovely lady came out and was talking to us about what we wanted and yeah, what our hopes and dreams are for Orange Sky. We said, "Oh, we'd love to have another van." She said, "Oh, how much is that?" We said, "Oh, this much." And she literally pulled out a cheque and wrote us a cheque right there. So within three months, we're going, "Oh, crap. Now we're going to have two vans." And what does that look like and the complexities of managing multiple teams across different geographies and working through that. But I think the big moment came about six months later is that we're done the two vans. We're operating Brisbane and the Gold Coast. And that same lady sort of-- we caught up again and she said, "Oh, what's happening?" We gave her the update and she said, "What do you guys-- what's the feature look like?" And we're like, "Oh, we want to do a van in Melbourne, but it's going to be a bit more expensive. It's going to be double the cost because we're going to have generator and water tanks, everything on board." And she, again, pulled out a cheque and wrote us a cheque right there. I remember holding this cheque being like, "This is more money than I could've ever comprehend." I think it's like $100,000 was this cheque and taking it to the bank and sort of cashing it in and thinking-- not cashing it in, depositing into our account and then going and purchasing the van and purchasing all the things that we needed for this van and taking it to Melbourne and that being a massive turning point for us was that. And we rocked up to Melbourne. We didn't know anyone. We had no real plan. Was like, "Oh, we'll spend a month there and we'll kind of figure it out as we go." And that was I think a big turning point for us from starting to really branch out just beyond southeast Queensland and go from there.
SCOTT OXFORD 16:24.597 Yeah. Because that's when you're starting to reach scale and you realise, we've proved it. This story resonates in other places and is desperately needed in other places. And you can then replicate it, so. And then obviously over to New Zealand as well. How did that happen?
LUCAS PATCHETT 16:39.334 Yeah. So we, I suppose, went on the Australia almost hamster wheel and we probably launched about 20 odd services across the whole country and got into every state and every territory and started seeing a lot of impact and a lot of that constant the core of orange sky was very similar but I think part of the magic was letting little differences happen across different services. So the volunteer demographic of the community in the Sunshine Coast is completely different to what it is in Canberra. And so just how we keep that core of Orange Sky, which is built on conversation and connection and bringing people in but also let those little nuances happen across each service. So New Zealand really happened towards 2018. We were getting smashed with requests from all around the world every week and we still get requests every week from countries and cities and interested people from business through to just concerned people in their communities saying, "Hey, we'd love to bring Orange Sky to X. How do we make it happen?" So we said, "Well, let's try New Zealand, makes sense geographically, and we can really test our model and test how we even take that personalisation even further."
LUCAS PATCHETT 17:46.507 Culturally, I think there's some similarities, there's a lot of differences as well between Australia and New Zealand, so how do we tailor that and how do we make it work for that market?" So that was sort of the goal at the start of 2018 was let's make it happen. And then a lot of conversations and a solid amount of negotiations and fundraising and working we managed to launch into Auckland by the end of 2018. And that set the foundation for, one, the second van a year later into Wellington, but also now that Auckland vans our busiest service across the whole fleet. And the need in New Zealand's tremendous. The volunteers have been incredible and have really helped to keep supporting and growing as needed to support that community and that's one of our big focus areas for the upcoming year is more growth into New Zealand because we know there's a lot of need and a lot of impact that we can make.
SCOTT OXFORD 18:35.275 Yeah. Just a little fact that we don't know. Yeah. For some reason, that surprises me. But I remember I had my own van experience. A bit older than you. But went out on Street Van one night and realised that I was-- we were driving through suburbs that I went to meetings at on a daily basis, but I didn't see that there was a little sort of car park or a little garden down there and that five people were living in it. It's so easy to walk past this as well. So how do you find-- do you find that people know that homelessness is happening and know that this problem is there or is that a big part of your story as well, helping people come to grips with exactly how much is out there?
LUCAS PATCHETT 19:22.037 I think challenging stereotypes and stigma around homelessness is massive. In Australia, there's 116,000 people who are experiencing homelessness on any given night. 58% male, 42% female. And so if you break that down, it's about 1 in 200 people. But also, that spectrum of homelessness. I think what homelessness gets boiled down to sometimes is the guy you might walk past on the way to the train station or someone who's sleeping in Martin Place in Sydney or the Queen Victoria Markets in Melbourne. And that maybe 10 or 15, 20 people that you associate with homelessness that's who the 116,000 is in your mind. Whereas homeless is so complex. It's so diverse. You've got people rough sleeping, you've got people who are in temporary accommodation and dwellings, and people who are in squats and different things like that, people in overcrowded situations, a lot in remote first nations, communities. And that whole spectrum of homelessness is so complex. The fastest emerging rate of homelessness here in Australia is women over 55 who are leaving relationships, might not have a super nest egg or have to leave for a variety of different reasons. And some of those worrying trends that we're seeing in this space is something that, I think, we're really trying to push out in terms of-- it's not just someone that has a cardboard sign. It might be at the front of the train station. It's actually someone who could be your aunty or your mum in some circumstances. And that challenge of trying to demystify homelessness is definitely a big part of what we do. And from a brand perspective, I think not having it as the guy who's sitting with a cardboard sign and dirty and sort of downtrodden. It's about sharing stories of hope and positivity and real, I think. Oh, not necessarily positive, but real. And I think that's a critical part of what we do.
SCOTT OXFORD 21:06.414 Yeah. Well, that's what really makes us human, I think is that ability to connect in with other people who are living a different existence to us and finding some real common ground there. And that's what your volunteers do, isn't it? That's the essence of them. That they're people who recognise their own relative privilege and have made a decision to make a difference. And any time you have volunteers, they all bring their own personalities, their own character and uniqueness as well, which means that your internal brand, I guess, the story that helps everybody in the organisation who aren't conveniently positioned at desks in a building that you can run workshops with. How do you find that you're able to manage and communicate that brand with them and just individualising it, localising it, but keeping the essence?
LUCAS PATCHETT 22:01.226 Yeah. It's absolutely one of the things that I think has been critical to our success. We've done some things really well. Some things are definitely stuffed up, and they've gotten better over time [or collate?] a couple of things. I think one is for our training which used to be all in person, but now there are a lot of stuff online. One of the first slides is-- it goes [off?], and I can still see the slide. So the initial design that I did, which is terrible in five years ago, was that we're not fans of the C word, but we love the F word. And then sort of people go, "Oh, what are they talking about? Am I about to get [sworn out?]?" [inaudible], "No, we don't use the word clients or customers. We use the word friends." And that, I think, just from a pure language like one word, I think, describes a culture of our volunteers. They maybe couldn't tell you our mission because it's [inaudible]. There's no way they could tell you our person characteristics or our values or anything, but I think that one word, friends, really cuts through all of that other stuff. And what it tells people is that we treat people-- everyone that comes [through our van?] equally with respect, without judgement, and there's a assumed friendship and relationship that is automatically implied straight away.
LUCAS PATCHETT 23:08.742 So I think that-- which is a really simple slide [inaudible] training, but everyone has to go through. But it perforates everything through all our communications that go out to volunteers, all of our training materials, everything that goes through from a volunteer perspective. That word, I think, is so critical. It's one of the key pillars of our strategy and all these different things. It really flows through everything that we do. So I think that's a big thing, getting people on board. There'll be 10% of people that still might use clients or customers, but it's really about bringing as many people into that language because I think it really sets the tone. I think the other one is from a uniform perspective like I mentioned, a simple thing, a T-shirt; a hoodie; a hat in some of our hotter communities for volunteers that don't-- it's funny creating a team environment and a simple thing of someone not having shirt or not having a hoodie can really isolate them from that group, so I think getting those processes right where when a volunteer joins, they get a hand-written note from a guy in our workshop who works for us full-time. He used to be on the streets and he's Nev. His name is an absolute legend in the Orange Sky community but he says, "Welcome to the team. I'm pumped to have you on board. I've made this shirt for you." So Nev prints all of our t-shirts and hoodies and the special welcome pack, I think, from a volunteer perspective. So, yeah, I think friends and then making people feel involved and part of it from an Orange Sky lens is how we've tried to really get that culture out through volunteers.
SCOTT OXFORD 24:38.994 Yeah. It sounds deeply tribal but in a really levelling way as in you could be a barrister or you could be a part-time fish and chip shop worker and everybody's wearing the same t-shirt, everybody's wearing the line. What strikes me about everything you've just told us is how just naturally and organically and intuitively brand voice happened for you. There are plenty of people like me who help organisations try and cut through the clutter and get the terminology right and all of that, whereas for you, it's naturally flowed out of just that experience of doing that and you've not had a corporate job so you probably can't compare it, and you're very lucky - can I tell you? - to have avoided that because you're out where the rubber hits the road and this whole sort of real living, breathing, humanness of it which is so beautiful. But essentially, your brand voice style guide is what you're talking about there and that way of this is how we speak, this is how we act, this is how we behave, this is how we live, this is who we are. And my big mission in life and part of the reason that I do this podcast is helping people realise that that's brand. That is the story. It's not an artificial shiny thing that sits in the corner of a brochure. It is in the essence of who we are and so many organisations struggle so hard to be something that they're not and it just seems to come so naturally to you guys.
LUCAS PATCHETT 26:18.691 I think we, like a lot of things, have lucked out and I think being still heavily involved and heavily on the tools with a lot of building really helps to support that and I think having your best mate alongside you really keeps you authentic. And we challenge each other and check each other if we think we're getting off-track with some of that stuff, so yeah, I think been super lucky and now going down the path of articulating that and having-- that was one of the struggles I know we had definitely a couple of years ago. We were saying, "Doesn't everyone know the brand?" and "Doesn't everyone know what we stand for and how we talk?" And actually having to articulate that can be a challenging thing but also a great thing to mobilise and centralise around. Yeah, so we definitely have fluked a few things. We've been lucky and maybe that intuition has come into play a bit as well.
SCOTT OXFORD 27:05.299 Yeah. And I dare say, what's so natural about it is that you haven't been coloured by a corporate experience and it sounds to me people like that amazing donor who helped with those, she just tapped into that absolute honest authenticity there and had no hesitation at all in terms of buying into what it is that you guys were doing. I wanted to ask, just back to you and Nick, often great organisation is headed by-- they call it the sizzle and the sensible. So not in your case necessarily, but someone brings the fun and someone brings the sensible and it keeps that sort of barometer in the middle where it needs to be and you sometimes go a bit more one way, a bit more the other. It sounds like you guys do that. Did you sort of divide on that or are you playing equal parts? How does that work?
LUCAS PATCHETT 28:03.758 Yeah, it's a good question. Two of my key values that I love to bring at work every day are having fun and learning and I think that notion of having fun and being, again, led by two best mates who-- we hang shit on each other - excuse the French - we have that really good working relationship where sometimes one of us will bring the sizzle and sometimes one of us will bring the other word which I've forgotten, but I think--
SCOTT OXFORD 28:31.723 Sensible. Yeah.
LUCAS PATCHETT 28:31.942 Sensible. There we go. Maybe I'm more on the sizzle side. So I think really having the two of us there really keeps us both honest and accountable, I think, to that and we can sort of dip in and out depending on the team and depending on the time and depending on what we think needs happening at the time. So yeah, I think sizzle and sensible, we both bring different things at different times and to different projects as well but I know definitely a key thing for us is-- what I love to do is laugh and have fun and when we're taking ourselves too seriously, I think that's when the magic of a place like Orange Sky can be really sucked out when we're taking ourselves too seriously and we're not learning from our mistakes and we're not laughing. If you don't laugh, you cry, almost, and yeah, I think having that sense of fun is a real critical part.
SCOTT OXFORD 29:21.695 Yeah. And you have a board and so I'm imagining that they feed into you guys and support you and help you with some of those things that you haven't been out in the world and necessarily done for yourself because you started this so early.
LUCAS PATCHETT 29:40.531 Yeah. Absolutely. Our board's been on an evolution so when we first started it was you need to register a association is the fastest way to get a charity here in Queensland, Australia. And so we're in Nick's kitchen. I was filling in the paperwork, and Nick's mum was across the counter. I said, "Oh, Claire, do you want to be on the board?" And I called my mum. She's like, "Yeah. I'll be on the board." And then roped in a few other people, long-lost cousin who was an accountant. We're like, "Oh, you can be the treasurer." And we sort of started out as a very operational, very one person removed from Orange Sky. We stitched up the person who gave us the two washes and two drivers for the first van. And she ran the company that did it. So we said, oh, if we get her on the board, maybe she'll keep giving us washing machines as we need them. So it was a bit of a sneaky play there.
SCOTT OXFORD 30:26.626 Well done.
LUCAS PATCHETT 30:26.991 But got her on board. So had a few different people. And that, I think, set the foundation, and we kept that sort of naturally evolved over time. And after the first couple years, all of a sudden, we're in the millions in terms of fundraising revenue. We're like, "Oh, we need to really level, and we need to keep getting better and really challenge--"
SCOTT OXFORD 30:45.474 More governance. More of those kind of grown-up things.
LUCAS PATCHETT 30:48.919 Yeah. Exactly. And challenge ourselves throughout sort of 2018-- or 2019, rather, we did some recruitment and secured some more directors and really levelled up Orange Sky from a governance side. And I think the remit we set our chair and our new directors in sort of working together was saying, "We want to level up." And we want to make sure Orange Sky can't be bowled over, given some massive world event or change in whatever. And we want to set Orange Sky to be around for as long as we're needed. But also, we don't want to lose the magic of Orange Sky, which is that ability to innovate as quickly, to be agile. And we don't want to have to go through 20 rounds of bureaucracy just to get things happening. So we look like absolute geniuses when they're all in place 2019. And then 2020 hit, and the whole world got turned upside down. And I'm confident that that group of people really help lead us through that in conjunction with us and our team and I think set the tone for the future. Now, we're 18 months in and we're really looking to the future to what is possible in terms of Orange Sky and keeping that core thing involved in saying, how do we know that we're really sustainable? And organisation that's going to be ran for as long as needed, but also keeping that innovation that's core and that lean mentality and all those start-up clichés, I think, but applying that when we're not talking about making money. We're talking about helping people, which is a cool spot to be in.
SCOTT OXFORD 32:16.165 Yeah. So there was, no doubt, some other organisations, some other brands out there that you saw go before you. Was there any, in particular, that inspired you in this direction? Or was this just really focused on, "We have a need. There is this model called not-for-profit. We can do this."
LUCAS PATCHETT 32:34.761 I think for us, there was no model that really stood out that we were like, "Oh, we need to adapt off that from a not-for-profit perspective." I think a lot of the big not-for-profit brands are religiously based or they've got backing from governments or political organisations. And I think Orange Sky's been a big disruptor in this space. So probably, we look to other brands to say, well, what is a Qantas doing with their planes and operating them as-- when the planes aren't in the air, they're not making money. And it's almost similar to us in saying when our vans aren't out, we're not helping people. And that mentality of really looking to some of those leading brands and what they're doing in spaces like that. But from a not-for-profit lens and when we're starting, looking and saying, "Oh, they've done such an amazing job." I suppose we kind of had to forge our own path and definitely spoke to different people and mentors along the way. But there was no, I think, really clear path laid by someone else. We sort of rode the coat-tails of it. It was almost forge ahead ourselves and give it a [red-hot crack?].
SCOTT OXFORD 33:31.447 Yeah. I think that's why it's so fresh. Now, trust is a big thing in a brand. And particularly, you have trust on many levels here, I guess, in terms of trust from donors. But also, I imagine the friends that you support they need to trust you and your volunteers as well. So how do you build that into your brand?
LUCAS PATCHETT 33:55.014 We talk about trust almost everyday. It's the currency that we trade in between-- yeah, you nailed it. From a donor perspective and someone giving us financial and whether that's $1, whether that's $100,000, and anywhere in between, that there's an immense amount of trust that goes into that. And we're trusted, and there's regulations and stuff that support that. But also, ultimately, that brand relationship and trust almost supersedes, I think, some of those regulations sometimes. So that's incredibly critical for us. Then we've got the volunteers trusting us. Volunteers that jump in our vans and drive and trust that they're safe and trust that they're going to go to a safe environment, and they're going to have that support if they need it. Their families are trusting us. Their loved ones are going out and volunteering with Orange Sky. And then the friends as well. For some of our friends, it might be their only possession in the world, and they're emptying their backpack, and they're putting them into washing machines. So there's an immense amount of trust for-- especially people that might have been done over by society, might have had terrible experiences through public systems or through large charity systems and stuff in the past. So there's a huge amount of trust that happens across all those. And I think one of the magic things of Orange Sky is actually bringing all three of those things together to create impact and to, at the end of the day, support people. So yeah, trust is, I think, one of the most critical things.
LUCAS PATCHETT 35:17.074 In terms of building it, I think it's almost different per group. But I think from a donor perspective and from a volunteer perspective, it's around authenticity and knowing that we care, and we're doing absolutely everything we can and using our resources as smart as possible and getting the vans to the places where they're needed most. From a volunteer perspective, it is knowing they're safe, knowing they're heard. When they put a shift report in and say, "Hey, we need detergent in the van." The next shift that they rock up on, there's detergent in the van. And those little tiny things and I think really build and continue to build that trust. And I think trust is one of those things that can ride in on [snail?]-- what is it? Ride in on [snail?] and leave on a horseback. And so takes ages to build up but can very quickly disappear. For our friends, it's the fact we're there every week. We're turning up on time. The volunteers are there. The van's working. All those little things that go into continually building that trust up and not eroding it over time.
SCOTT OXFORD 36:11.801 Yeah. You mentioned 2020 before. That obviously would've kept your volunteers indoors, kept your vans limited in what they could do. I bet that was agonising for you guys.
LUCAS PATCHETT 36:25.753 Yeah. March 2020 was probably one of the toughest months. So all weeks of my life in my Orange Sky career, definitely. We made the decision in sort of mid to late-March to press pause on all of our shifts across Australia and New Zealand, with the exception of some of the work we're doing remote in Indigenous communities. And the thinking was is that voice of our volunteers and our service provider partners was really shifting to not being certain. And I think everyone throughout the whole world had that moment of uncertainty where they didn't know what was coming and what was going next. So pressed pause on all our shifts. We then reimagined a shift were delivered. We put some extra cleaning process in place. We had a physical barrier set up around the van. We did some extra volunteer training. We just had to reimagine a few little tiny tricks. Nothing massive. But then trialled a couple of shifts and then went about rebuilding everything. So, yeah, we were doing 1,000 shifts a month in February last year before we pressed pause. And then we're about to hit 1,000 shifts again. So we're sort of just out the tail end of rebuilding. But the great thing about that is we can rebuild stronger. So a lot of shifts that have come back are in better positions in helping more people, a better position to keep supporting those communities that we work in. So yeah, it's definitely been a challenge. But I think we're a lucky organisation that hasn't been affected as significantly as other industries. So take it's affected everyone and take, I think, the good lessons and whatnot from it. And for a volunteer, we used to take 100 days, on average, for a volunteer to apply on our website to being out on shift. And throughout COVID, we said, well, that's not good enough. We can't do face-to-face training. We sort of reimagined that whole process. And now, someone can apply and be on shift that same day if the timing all works out, but it can happen really quickly. So I think little things like that that we can do that can ultimately reduce the time it takes to get impact out there and to bring more impact into the community. There's been some nice things out of it as well.
SCOTT OXFORD 38:24.719 Yeah. I'd imagine it's one of those things that when you can't do it for a while, when you can, you're like boots and all in. It's a bit like travel's going to be, right? I talked to Darren at Flight Centre. He said, "We're not going to have to convince people to travel again when they can. It's going to happen." And I imagine it's the kind of people that volunteer for you would've been counting down the days until they could get back out there again.
LUCAS PATCHETT 38:46.720 Absolutely. And we saw that different across the whole of the country. We saw people in Darwin saying, "Oh, let's get back out there. Everything's back to normal here." And so working through that a bit quicker. Our friends in Melbourne, we had to have permitted worker permits. And we had classifications as essential service and all these different hoops that we need to jump through. And once we had it, the people in Melbourne, for instance, were so grateful to be actually given that opportunity to go out of their radius and to get out to the community and reconnect with those people that they were so worried about, someone that you see every week on a Wednesday night, and you have great conversation with, and you've got a real connection and a real friendship with. Then all of a sudden being told, "No. You're not going to see them for an unknown amount of time." But then when you do get it back out there and that real concern, I suppose, around has someone who's been sleeping rough, whether they have to self-isolate and how do they stay safe in the community? So yeah, I think it really-- hygiene and human connection was such a focus of the whole of last year. All of a sudden, we all struggled with where am I going to wash my hands? Where am I going to get hand sanitizer? Where am I going to-- or I'm restricted to my home. I can only have one person over. I can only talk to someone virtually. All of a sudden, we had this almost experience that people that we support have everyday in feeling isolated and feeling disconnected and not having that--
SCOTT OXFORD 40:06.211 [crosstalk].
LUCAS PATCHETT 40:07.204 Yeah. Not having that hygiene. So yeah, I think it definitely has built empathy. And we're seeing that even with people who are supporting us now. Organisations and individuals are saying, "We were lucky throughout last year. And I know that this is going to have such a negative impact on people who are towards the bottom and who are struggling are going to potentially struggle more." So I want to do what I can to help, and that might be volunteer, that might be donate, and they might get their business involved. And whatever that looks like, I think Orange Sky's the vehicle to that pretty cool spot.
SCOTT OXFORD 40:37.968 Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. Just before we finish talking about your volunteers, the Orange Sky person framework, I know you sort of mentioned a little bit into that before. But I think that's a sort of a key part for anyone listening to this who runs teams, and particularly if they're running volunteers or the like. I'm just sort of interested because they're the ambassadors of the brand. They're the ones who are carrying that trust out there. So can you just describe that for me?
LUCAS PATCHETT 41:08.679 Yeah. Absolutely. I think where the Orange Sky person characteristics came from was looking at us, our mission of positively connecting communities, and what really underpins that. I think every value of-- majority of corporate Australia I think you see integrity and respect and words like that on the wall. We want to go a little bit beyond that and say, well, what actually makes up an Orange Sky person? So there's eight characteristics that make up an Orange Sky person. Things like believes in what we do, gives things a crack, strives to continually improve, and really strips away some of that corporate language and gives really specific examples for people, and I think paints a picture of what is an Orange Sky person, what do they want to do, and what fuels them, what drives all those little elements that add into that, and I think clearly articulating that really helps when we're bringing new people onto the team and working through with people exactly what it means to be an Orange Sky person. I think culturally, it's been a big part in setting the tone and setting the standard and going almost beyond the standard four or five values that you might plug on the wall and yeah, it really paves that picture.
SCOTT OXFORD 42:09.645 Yeah. And that kind of values-based recruitment is such a powerful way for even people to self-select out, to kind of go, actually, no, that's probably not me. That's helpful for everyone, isn't it?
LUCAS PATCHETT 42:21.379 Absolutely. And I think any recruitment is a two-way street. It's not just a one-way street and finding and sounding that out is really critical.
SCOTT OXFORD 42:29.216 Absolutely. Well, I want to ask you a few questions not about Orange Sky now. I want to just tap into Lucas the person and I have a question I love to ask around brand. Brand is something that even if we didn't know the term brand or that it was a brand, we connect it in with something that we had no other relationship with, usually in our childhood, and there are things that people remember. What's something from your childhood, a brand that meant something to you?
LUCAS PATCHETT 43:02.616 Yeah, it's a good question, something I pondered on when I first read the question. I was born in 1994 so came up through that time and I can always remember as a kid being fascinated by Billabong as a brand and not all my mates, a couple of mates, had the Billabong boardies or the Billabong shirt and it was just the coolest thing possible. And I can remember talking to mum and dad as a seven or eight year old and being like, "I'd love a Billabong shirt," and remember a pair of boardies for a seven or eight year old was like 50 bucks and my parents thought, oh, we're not buying you a $50 pair of boardies, but just being so fascinated or so fixed on getting these. So I remember getting my first pair for a birthday or Christmas and just absolutely treasuring these things. And reflecting back on it now, I think it's so interesting how brands can make you feel and can make you act, especially as a younger kid who's coming up and there's all the influences outside of just your own perspective and thoughts.
SCOTT OXFORD 44:02.857 Yeah. Interestingly, you're my fourth interview this year and you're the third person to mention surfwear and the other one was a New Yorker so [laughter] she was unlikely to, but yeah, that is how you sort of connect in, isn't it? And yeah, I'm feeling really old because the year you were born is the year I got married. That's amazing. So that's put me off now [laughter]. Not at all. Not at all. I'm seriously impressed with the person you are and were, and the making of a person is down to background. So what made the brand, Lucas, I guess, to sort of bring you back to brand, but what probably set you up to be this kind of person who followed a path into commerce and into engineering? And commerce has obviously helped you in business, but engineering probably not so--
LUCAS PATCHETT 45:06.867 I'm a drop-out, so--
SCOTT OXFORD 45:08.186 But you could have finished it and you got it in the first place, and let's face it, you could have made a lot more money as an engineer, I'd imagine, probably.
LUCAS PATCHETT 45:15.689 Yeah, I think for me, almost going right back to when I was a kid and seeing how involved mum and dad were at the school and school fetes and always doing things that I don't think [had?] traditionally called volunteering or philanthropy but always donating stuff for the raffles and different things like that. And I think as a kid, you really pick up and you see those and maybe subconsciously remember and think about them, and transitioning then to I remember in grade three, I was relatively entrepreneurial and show and used to be pretty out of control at my school and got to the point, by the end of, I think term 3 or 4, that my teacher used to give me the last 90 minutes of a Friday afternoon. She'd say, "You just run the class." I'd run for, I think, about a term or two. I ran a whole workshop and whatnot with my Grade 3 class. She probably thought I was an absolute idiot. I'm not sure. So always remember, I suppose, that entrepreneurial and also almost socially connected thing. And now, I look back, I can sort of connect the dots. And I love that Steve Jobs speech around looking backwards and connecting the dots. And then heading to high school and having that experience on the food van and really starting to figure that out. But I also went to a school where you get good grades, and you go and you become a scientist or a lawyer or a doctor or an engineer. And I was good at math at science and I got good grades, and so engineering was the path for me. And I think I did that for a couple years, and I've got mates now that are in engineering and in that field and love it on all different ends of the spectrum. And I did a couple years of that. And then doing that travel, I think was one of those timing things where it just-- take a bit of time off and reflect. And I knew that-- I didn't come back and say, "I'm not going to do engineer anymore." It's like I'm two years in and what you do when you come back from travel is you go and you finish your degree. And you pay it off and you buy a house, and you go down that path, I think, that's set for you.
LUCAS PATCHETT 47:14.704 But I think it's, again, that time and place moment of going, "Actually, let's give it a crack." Got no mortgage. Got no job. Got no uni that's happening for the next couple weeks. Let's go off and see what happens. And for the first three years of Orange Sky was a volunteer in a part-time, but then quickly grew into a full-time capacity. And at the start of 2016, Nick and I both said, "Let's give it a crack for a year, and let's really see where we can get it to." Because prior to that, I was still doing uni. I was still at-- we both had part-time jobs. And so 2016, we started with about five vans. Five vans, that's about 250 volunteers. So it was right on that tipping point, I think, and we said, "Well, let's give it a year, and let's see where we get to at the end of the year." And then we almost make the decision on do we really step in, or do we pass it on or get someone else to take it on? And that year, we almost tripled in every category across revenue, van, volunteers.
SCOTT OXFORD 48:06.906 Because you put the time in as well.
LUCAS PATCHETT 48:07.845 Yeah. And we just went fully all in on Orange Sky and that was 2016. So a gap year sort of turned into six gap years. But I think now, looking back at my time doing engineering, doing commerce, it was ways of solving problems. It's still using numbers. It's still systematically thinking through challenges and how we solve them. And so for that experience, I'm grateful in being able to connect those dots. But in designing things or building roads, I'm probably not too interested in, especially now I've had this other experience.
SCOTT OXFORD 48:40.425 Yeah. You're probably unlikely to go finish that degree now.
LUCAS PATCHETT 48:43.187 Well, it's funny. I sent you my updated bio Monday because I was literally typing it. It used to say, "Lucas is taking a break from his engineering degree." And I was like, oh, it's time. I think it's time now.
SCOTT OXFORD 48:52.835 Call it. Got to call it.
LUCAS PATCHETT 48:52.917 Yeah. My subjects are expiring next year or the year after, so that shipped has sailed on this.
SCOTT OXFORD 48:59.288 You got a bigger purpose than that. There's plenty people who can go and do that, whereas you guys are the only ones to do this, I think. And it's with you maintaining your passion that's so critical, the leadership of a brand like this that is so driven. It's so much bigger than you. But it is that tone, I think, that you set that just-- they say the fish rots from the head, and it's a great leadership term. And it's always about the quality and the commitment of the leadership. And yeah, hearing it today, I don't think that's waning at all. So engineering can live without you I think. I want to ask a few more brand questions about-- we talked about trust before. Is there a brand today, aside from your own, that that you trust? And if so, what is it and why?
LUCAS PATCHETT 49:51.622 Yeah. I thought about this one a lot. I think Patagonia is one that comes to mind for me. It's that how do you in such an industry and that has so many, I think, flaws and challenges, and they really take a leadership approach in their garments and how they care for them for life and how they really walk the walk in terms of not just slapping integrity on the wall but living that and breathing that every year. So I think, yeah, Patagonia is one that sprung to mind for that one.
SCOTT OXFORD 50:17.717 Yeah. I don't know their full story, so I could be not complete here, but Nudie Jeans also, their commitment to sustainability and product and sort of repairs, it just strikes me as a real point of difference in the denim industry as well, which is-- at the end of the day, cotton which is hugely resource-intensive to produce, and they're saying trade your jeans in if you don't want them anymore. We'll remake them, we'll resell. We'll keep this going. And I just think that for a commercial organisation as both of those are, Nudie and Patagonia, it's a big call. So from one that you trust to one that you love, is there a brand that you love?
LUCAS PATCHETT 51:05.606 Yes. That's another one that I struggle with a lot I think. We talked about Who Gives a Crap earlier in the show and I've spent a bit of time with Simon, and he's given us some advice, and he's probably a bit further down the journey, and on a slightly different journey to us. But definitely admire and love the notion of how to turn a toilet and turn going to the bathroom into something fun and something engaging and have those little tweaks and those little quirks that I think, that surprising to light element that they bring to everything they do all the way through their marketing, through their initial campaign where they were kicking it off and sitting on the toilet for however many hours it was, and really walking the walk again. I think what I value in any brand is authenticity and that, yeah, walking the walk I think is a good way to describe it, and showing that people really behind what's on the wall, what's on the logo, and that there's something real behind that. So I think Who Gives a Crap is a brand I love.
SCOTT OXFORD 52:06.324 Yeah. they constantly srurise and delight. Just this morning I pinched a box of tissues and turned it over and found some copy, just a little checklist that you could fill in, and it just made me smile and I thought that's beautiful. But I love knowing what we're supporting. Like you guys, it's about giving people back their dignity and catering to the most basic needs that most of us take for granted. And it's true purpose as you know. I hate to be negative, but is there a brand out there that's broken trust with you? I mean, there's plenty that have broken trust with a lot of us, whether we want to name them or not, it's-- but yeah, anything where it just didn't stack up?
LUCAS PATCHETT 53:00.283 Nothing is jumping to mind right at the moment. I think-- like I look back at-- I talked about Billabong before and now being older, and seeing that, and going actually, that doesn't connect with me anymore. It's not something that I run to the shops and get the latest release of a pair of shoes or a pair of buoys or something like that. So I think, as I've grown up, you almost diverge from where you were as a younger kid. So I think, yeah, probably more brands are built on-- I think, ultimately, a lot of the stuff comes from similar places and similar materials and stuff, and you might end up paying a lot more and that probably doesn't connect with me as well as it used to as a young kid and less peer pressures and stuff I think definitely contribute to that.
SCOTT OXFORD 53:45.264 Yeah. I think for me it's any brand where the cracks begin to show as you sort of get to know them more or you get older and wiser. And the best metaphor for that was in theme parks where, as a child, you don't see the peeling kind of theming on the walls or whatever. You just see the magic. And then almost like turning the light on in a nightclub and suddenly you kind of see it for what it is. And you're like, "Mmm," and there's plenty of times where new stories or the like happen and you're like, "It's really disappointing because now I just don't feel I can support that anymore," and again, it's just that breach of trust. And it's a rough question because it does get us to sort of name and shame but I think it's more about the principle of it. Why does a brand break trust? And as you say, you kind of-- not that they've broken trust, it's just that you start to mature in your thinking and you realise that what they were selling you, you're not really buying anymore.
LUCAS PATCHETT 54:45.277 Absolutely.
SCOTT OXFORD 54:46.797 So as always, we could talk all day, and there's plenty more things I think I'm going to come back and pick your brain on because I have probably, for the last 25 years, had in mind a business with a social purpose, so I'll ask you those questions off-mic, but my last question's around assuming that you get the opportunity and that this is not what you do until the end of your days, what would you do instead? Is there a brand you'd love to work on or with?
LUCAS PATCHETT 55:18.888 Yeah. I think there's not one that jumps straight to mind from a brand that I'd love to work with. I think what it comes back to me is those values, for me, which are having fun and learning. So if there's a brand that really encompasses that for me, and there's lots of brands out there that are, I think, built around fun and enjoying that fun and then for me, it's the opportunity to learn. So it's the opportunity to go and make an impact on an organisation, on a group of people. That doesn't necessarily mean in the not-for-profit sector. For my whole life. I definitely don't see myself as a 40-year-old jumping in and fixing washing machines in orange vans but want to set Orange Sky up on the right path and use it. It's been the best opportunity for me to learn over the last six-and-a-half years than any university or any classroom could have ever taught me. So really, using that to springboard my own career and into the next phase after getting Orange Sky off the spot that I'm really happy with. So I'd love to look at different brands and different organisations around the world that are having fun, making an impact and an opportunity for me to learn along the way.
SCOTT OXFORD 56:21.906 Would you found a new brand?
LUCAS PATCHETT 56:23.614 I think I'd never rule out-- Nic and I have other mildly, moderately, quite unsuccessful [laughter] other businesses that we've sort of spun up and trialled over the last couple of years so I think yeah, it's definitely an area that I love doing. And my mum always jokes to me that you're never going to work for anyone in your life because you've had this opportunity and this experience as such a young kid, so the ability to really lead that and grow that. So whatever that looks like for me in the future, I'm not quite sure, but definitely, I'd never rule out founding something else and growing something else.
SCOTT OXFORD 56:58.839 Well, as someone who's raised three kids, I found that once I grew them up, I had all these skills and it's like, "Do I have to wait to become a grandparent before I can use them?" I think you're going to find when you've got this safely in being looked after in hands, I think you're going to find that there's a new purpose that captures you and we'll watch and wait. So, Lucas, thanks so much for sharing your story and I'm clearly a bit of a fanboy over here watching what you guys have done and so impressed, but I love that you've created this brand organically and it's all flowed out of the purpose and it's flowed so naturally. I love the story of connecting the dots too and even down to those sort of lessons learned. And even the gifts of COVID that are just going to make your volunteer base stronger and more passionate and the like. I think your purpose is supported in a big way and so it's only going to go from strength to strength and I can't wait to see you expand globally. I'm sure you have that vision and I wish you the best of luck.
LUCAS PATCHETT 58:13.484 Thanks for having me.
SCOTT OXFORD 58:17.625 [music] So you can find out more about the work of Orange Sky, about volunteering, about donating and supporting them in a whole range of ways online at orangesky.org.au. And thanks for supporting us too. Podcast support on word of mouth, so jump on our socials and share us around. You can find me, Scott Oxford, on LinkedIn, or follow brandjam_podcast on Instagram. And of course, subscribe on your podcast platform. Ensure you don't miss an episode. You can also visit our website, brandjam.co, and the notes from today will be posted on there, including links to Orange Sky. You can drop me a line there or connect me up with anyone you feel you think should be a guest, just like Lucas. And to finish, a well-known quote but one that just feels right for today's episode. It's from Simon Sinek and he says, "People don't buy what you do. They buy why you do it," and in Lucas' case, I think they buy into why you do it. I'm Scott Oxford. Thanks for joining me today on Brand Jam.