At various periods of my life, including all my growing years, I have made the weekly trek to the laundromat, whiling away the hours to the thump and whir of washing machines and dryers. I’m totally spoiled these days, with laundry facilities right in my own condo unit.
Except for a few hours a week, the two machines sit idle. Like so many of the machines we consider absolute musts these days, they represent a luxury out of reach for a lot of people. They also represent a gluttonous use of resources.
Yann Gegenheimer, a student at the SKEMA Business School in Lille had dirty clothes to wash. He couldn’t find a laundromat close by. It was one of those moments of synchronicity, happening just at the time he and his team of five were trying to come up with an idea for the 2011 Défi-Innovation. The theme of the innovation challenge was “Societal and sustainable innovation.”
The light bulb turned on. According to the SKEMA site, Yann thought:
Neighbours take care of each other's cats or water the garden while people are away, lend each other eggs, etc....so why wouldn’t they rent their washing machine?
Yann’s team liked the idea. They scratched their collective heads and designed an internet platform to connect people who needed a place to do their laundry with people who had machines with unused capacity.
La Machine du Voisin (the Neighbour’s Machine) was born. Since February 20, 2012, when the site went live, 1111 machines have been registered. That’s a lot of neighbourly people earning some euros and maybe even meeting some new friends, while making their washing machines available to others. And it’s a lot of people who now have a way to find a nearby, affordable solution to their laundry problems.