Hello there! It’s me, Spiffy, the interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth with the latest scoop on entrepreneurs making a difference for all of us around the world! Today’s rockstar is Zain Mahmood, the founder and COO at Casata, based out of Florida, a company working on SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities.
Spiffy: Thanks a million for talking with me today, Zain. Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through Casata?
Zain: Great to be here! To answer your question, Spiffy, the US has a shortage of around five million attainable or workforce homes; Casata builds communities with sustainable, modern, and elevated micro homes that foster community and connection.
Spiffy: That’s so neat! What motivated you to do it?
Zain: As an entrepreneur, I wanted to do something that benefits my children's generation; I have a 27 year old and a 17-year-old daughter, both of whom love the Casata concept of smaller, greener spaces with a lot more amenities, safety, security, and a community feel.
Spiffy: That sense of community is so important, especially now. I love that it’s part of your mission statement. Can you elaborate on how you and Casata are working towards a more equitable world?
Zain: We preserve the land we build on without disruption; we keep the trees to make it feel like more of a community; we produce off-site to reduce waste, increase speed of production and improve quality and we build to the highest factors of sustainability focusing on our energy and water footprint; ultimately we build an attainable community for the workforce.
Spiffy: When can I come visit, Zain? That sounds amazing. Is there a recent company milestone or initiative you’d like to share?
Zain: We just completed our first 66-unit community in a record 12 months; we believe this community reduces both the water and energy footprint by 25% (of comparable communities). It also simplifies the user/tenant experience and surrounds the community with experiences. We have now announced 1000 units in the Texas market in the next two years and another 5000 units in the following four years.
Spiffy: Wow! I’m sure you’ve encountered your share of failure and frustration, like an entrepreneur. Can you tell me how you handled it and what you learned from it?
Zain: Our first community faced a once-in-a-hundred-year snowstorm in Austin, Texas in spring of 2021; this delayed construction and, most importantly, getting permanent power to the community. We worked hard with our existing tenants and brought in temporary power to get the community started on schedule in February. Our customers/tenants were waiting on us; they counted on us and we delivered. We learned that in a construction project, things are often beyond our control, taking over our destiny. But we persevered and worked hard to meet the mission and move the goal forward.
Spiffy: Important takeaways all of them. Now, what is something you've unexpectedly learned from someone recently?
Zain: I have been a single dad to two daughters for over a decade now and my children teach me things every day. Recently, I learned from my daughter how her school environment creates pressure on her, as an Asian American, to perform and excel in math and the sciences, even though she believes writing is her superpower. This was a new learning for me since I didn't go to high school here and didn't experience this bullying. As a teenager, I had surrendered my destiny to math and the sciences because I believed I didn't have a choice. She taught me again that everyday we choose to love what we do and don't have to follow stereotypes.
Spiffy: She sounds like a smart, wise kid! Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience before we wrap this up?
Zain: We are extremely proud of the statistical data we are building with our tenants; learning from these millennials (median age of 34) we are learning what our tenants truly care about and we are shaping our concierge offerings to customize to that.
Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Zain—it’s been an honor!
Zain Mahmood was born and raised in Bangladesh and did his undergraduate and graduate studies in the US. Over a 25-year period, Zain has lead several industrial companies, specially in the building materials, as President and CEO. In 2020, during the pandemic, Zain teamed up with Aaron Levy and Noah Pollack to start Casata, the first branded and tech-enabled workforce housing company with a deep conviction of sustainability, community and connection (Nominated by Lorenzo Thione at Gaingels. First published on the Ladderworks website on June 2, 2022.)© 2022 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Anushree Nande. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Corner here.