With a national crisis of both a housing shortage and skilled trades gap, Nisreen has taken her lifelong advocacy for underrepresented communities and her technology skills and mashed them together to create her new construction project management tool, Basil. After snagging my subscription and receiving my very own one-on-one tutorial with Nisreen, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to learn more about how she landed on this amazing idea and what the future looks like for technology and construction. Through my interview below, I learned a ton about her intentions but also how her own life experiences and struggles have shaped her approach to making the world a better place for others.

AC: Thanks for taking time out of your day to speak with me, Nisreen! I did a little research on you and wow! You have a ton of spectacular write-ups and interviews that share your versatile background. So, let’s start with my first question which is how would you summarize your introduction?

NH: Thank you so much for having me! I’m Nisreen Hasib and I’m the founder and CEO of Basil. I’m also an ex-attorney and an advocate for women, femmes, and non-binary people worldwide and throughout the country. I’m super excited to find ways to create systems and structures to uplift all people.

AC: What led you into the construction industry?

NH: It came from personal experience and is not something I expected to do. During the pandemic, my husband and I bought a house in the Catskills in New York with the intent of renovating it. It was the first time we renovated a house from scratch. Along the way, there were a couple of miscommunications, like a lack of records being kept that caused quite a few issues. Even with all of that we were able to keep the project on time and on schedule because I have been an operator in many of the companies I had worked at and my husband was a product manager. When we finished our renovation my husband turned to me and said “you should turn our experience of managing our project into some technological application. I think it would make it easier for everyone involved.” So, that’s the origin story of how I got into construction renovation tech. 

I care deeply about this issue. It’s an issue that resonates with me because I started my career as a labor and employment attorney.

AC: That’s a great origin story. Your personal experience is reflected in Basil, which I think resonates with women in construction because we tend to be more in tune with the customer experience and it comes through that there is someone on the other end of Basil who is familiar with all of the problems that can arise during a renovation.

NH: 100%. When I started digging into the problems a little more, one of the things that stood out to me is all of the pressure that there is on builders and the trades. Some of the folks that we enjoyed working with were small business owners and they were trying to build something for themselves and their families. They understand the importance of good customer service. If there's no easy way to keep track of all the things involved in the project it’s really easy for those folks to get screwed over. 

I care deeply about this issue. It’s an issue that resonates with me because I started my career as a labor and employment attorney. I grew up in a part of California where these people have always been part of my community. I found construction tech frustrating because it's not easy to use and it's expensive. But out of that frustration, an opportunity presented itself. We have a housing crisis in this country, and we need to make it easier for builders and trades people to do their work. They are the ones putting roofs over our heads. 

I was very intentional and I hope that’s clear with how we’ve built Basil. No one has the time to learn complicated technology. I fully believe that any piece of technology should be intuitive, beautiful, and should fit seamlessly into any process you establish.

AC: I love the way that you're unpacking the problem because it is very robust with so many different people and your approach to the solution seems to be multifaceted which makes me feel like you fully understand. Can you talk more about the time that you spent working as a labor and employment attorney and how it has influenced Basil’s development?

NH: Absolutely. My interest in labor and employment  started with my experience as a Muslim-American who came of age during and right after 9/11. The Muslim-American community faced a lot of discrimination after the attacks. Most of the discrimination was in the workplace. This realization drove me toward labor and employment law. 

Additionally, I grew up in a very rural part of California where there was a big gap between folks in vineyards and people who work in the vineyards, people who worked on your car, people who worked in the hotels, people who literally built the fences and built the buildings. Unfortunately, many times the work that these folks did was not valued.  Even as a teenager, I knew there was something off about it and I’m now able to articulate the disparity. 

This became even clearer during the pandemic. We collectively realized,  “Oh, factories don’t run themselves? Buildings don’t build themselves?”.

We must acknowledge what it takes to literally establish the building blocks of society. There's a massive shortage of workers in the construction industry. This has created an opportunity for people to enter the industry. I’m particularly excited because this means that new people can enter the industry, like women and people of color. There is the opportunity for folks to build businesses that provide the foundation for a great life and for them to literally build the houses and buildings we depend on for shelter.

About  60% of construction industry businesses have 5 or fewer people. The chances of you being a solo entrepreneur are pretty high.

AC: I think what’s awesome about Basil is that although homeowners will benefit from it in the long run, you created this for the worker. As a construction business owner,  I love what I do. I would never choose not to work with my hands but there is a difference between how other industries are making progress through technology and how construction is disconnected from that tech, specifically for tradespeople. So how is Basil going to help the average business owner with that?

NH: When developing any piece of technology, whether it is software or hardware, the first question you have to ask is, “What is the job to be done?” What specific problem is your invention solving? 

With builders, remodelers, and tradespeople, everyone knows how to “build the thing” and/or “do the thing”. But building a business (pun intended) is not just about building houses or being a great electrician. As a business owner, you must not only execute your craft, you must also manage your back office and administration. 

So what stood out to me was that folks were taking one day a week (a whole 8 hours) just to do admin stuff. That's just crazy. About  60% of construction industry businesses have 5 or fewer people. The chances of you being a solo entrepreneur are pretty high. You don't have the time to choose between being on-site to see what's going on and putting together all the paperwork that the homeowner is interested in seeing and the paperwork that you need to protect yourself. 

When I was renovating my home, the thing that was frustrating for me was that there was no process for capturing a change order. My contractor and I would meet on site and he would take a voice memo, and we would walk away from the conversation, each of us with very different understandings of the work I had authorized.He thought I understood what was happening. I thought I understood what was happening. Spoiler: we were not aligned. 

In my perfect world, he'd capture a change order that detailed what was going on, I would look at it, sign it, understand what the cost was and how it affected my bottom line. The change orders for the entire project would be a paper trail that captured out agreement.  But I realize that unless you have a larger operation with one to two people who are dedicated to that back office, that is unlikely to happen. 

AC: This is so true! I sit in my truck with my laptop during jobs just to get everything done while still being on site. It is so hard to keep up with!

NH: Exactly! So what Basil does is pretty simple. We allow you to generate a contract or a change order at the click of a button. The website is optimized for both laptop and mobile. 

Here’s how this works if you're on site with a client. You have Basil open on your phone, and you capture notes as line items on the platform for changes to the scope of work. You can also put a price on each line and you just hit a button that says “generate a contract” or “generate change order”. We have standard form contracts and change orders, or we can use any template you have developed with your attorney.

Once you hit that button,  it then sends the contract or change order out to the client for review. Once they agree to it, they just sign it electronically and it is stored on the Basil platform.  Those get time stamped and they have to sign off on it and then it's added to the Basil platform, which your clients also have access to. We try to make your life easier just by giving you two buttons so you can click in an order to make sure everyone's on the same page.

AC: I think what also makes this exciting for women in construction is that I've had conversations and I know firsthand that unlike a lot of men who have their wives handle the administrative work, a lot of women are running their businesses alone. So this is that extra hand that can help women a ton. 

NH: Yes. It also gives women a paper trail because unfortunately, we live in a world where women and non-binary people still get questioned often and this protects them with documentation throughout the process. I’ve also had a lot of experience helping people with salary negotiations and these extra tools equip people to value themselves and their work because they are 100% worth it

AC: Totally! This is a tool that could help women find the courage to go out on their own and achieve business ownership in construction because it’s super intimidating. Would you say Basil is geared toward general contractors or subcontractors?

NH: It's not focused on general contractors, it is helpful for anyone with their own business in the construction industry. Tradespeople included!

AC: Is there anything else that you feel like you'd like to include about Basil or anything that you feel we haven't covered that would be a good thing to communicate?

NH: Yes! I’m super excited to offer Move Over Bob folks a discounted price for the platform. It’s normally $35 per month per user but for Move Over Bob folks, it will be $25 per month with a discount code. Also, if anyone has any questions about how to use the platform or even if you just want to talk it through or you have any questions about things like legal or business things, anyone in the community can reach out to me. This is a great community and we need to keep building it. 


If you'd like to take advantage of the exclusive offer from Nisreen and gain access to her new project management program, Basil, go to https://www.hellobasil.com/ and make sure to use the discount code MOVEOVERBOB. It is good for $10 off of the monthly subscription price (original price per month is $35).