SANTA CLARA — Instead of complaining about a system that wasn’t working for her or the people it was meant to serve, Bradi Frei built her own software to fix it.
Despite the challenges of being a single mother starting a business and without a background in programming, Frei spent a lot of late nights developing her software and establishing her company, My City Inspector, which is now used by cities across Utah.
Building a company on her kitchen table
Frei’s journey started as executive assistant for the Santa Clara public works and building departments, where she found that the process for managing city inspections for building permits was not effective or organized.
“There was just so much paperwork,” Frei said. “Contractors would call me and say, ‘where’s my inspection,’ and I would say, ‘I don’t know — probably taped onto a window somewhere or blown away. It was a mess.”
Frei, who has three children, decided to do something about it. After fiddling with a few options with Excel, she hired programmers with her own money and spent many late nights at her home to make her vision of a better program for city building departments a reality.
“I was working full time (with Santa Clara), so I would come home, put my kids to bed and work on my software — every day,” Frei said. “We were constantly building and improving what we started with.”
While Frei said she was knowledgeable about technology, she didn’t have a programming background. So she would make images on Photoshop of what she wanted each page on the online-based software to look like, then send them to her programmers with careful instructions about what she wanted every button to do, and the programmers would make it happen.
My City Inspector was launched in 2013. It streamlines the process of scheduling and managing city inspections for building departments, Frei said.
It also allows city inspectors to make inspections directly on their smartphones or tablets, which is a feature nonexistent in other similar software, Santa Clara City Manager Ed Dickie said.
“Six clicks on the old software became one on mine,” Frei said.
After city employees realized how Frei’s software worked so much better than what they were using before, the city formally purchased it in 2014.
“(Frei’s program) was the cheapest software out of all the other bids,” Dickie said. “It hit all the points we needed a software to do and more. If there are other softwares out there that do what she does, it costs a lot of money.”
The My City Inspector software cost the city of Santa Clara $7,200, according to the inspection software comparison bid presented to the City Council before Frei’s software was purchased. The next cheapest option was $29,200, while some programs ran up to $70,000 to use.
“What we had before was ineffective and was not doing everything we needed it to do,” Dickie said. “It wasn’t even included in that bid.”
News of Frei’s new software spread among building departments across Utah. Frei wasn’t even marketing her software, but through word of mouth, My City Inspector is now used by 11 departments across Utah, including Washington County, Enterprise, Highland, Roy and Park City.
“I have never gone and done a demo of my software where I haven’t gotten the sale,” Frei said.
After Frei’s company started gaining success, she eventually had to leave her job with Santa Clara. After a brief attempt to work part-time with the city, Frei resigned in July 2017.
She now manages her company from her kitchen table.
“If I could go back and work at Santa Clara and do my business and just duplicate myself, I would,” Frei said. “I love the city and I loved my job.”
Hurdles to overcome
Frei’s success with My City Inspector brought challenges she said she didn’t foresee coming. The software company that Santa Clara had used before, iWorQ, filed a complaint with the city that Frei had crafted her software while on the clock for the city. Santa Clara conducted an extensive investigation, City Attorney Mathew Ence said.
But after looking through emails, timecards and documents, Ence said the city found no wrongdoing.
“I was very careful to keep my work with my company separate from working with the city,” Frei said. “That’s why I was working on it every night so late.”
In a letter to the state auditor’s office detailing the result of the city’s investigation, Ence wrote:
As a result of our investigation, we concluded that Ms. Frei had not improperly utilized her position and that she had likely been targeted by (iWorQ’s CEO Garyn Perrett) in an attempt for his company to gain competitive advantage over her company.
Parrett and other representatives from iWorQ refused to comment to St. George News on the allegations against Frei.
Additional complaints were made to the Washington County Attorney’s Office, the state auditor and the Utah Attorney General’s Office.
Eric Clarke, lead civil attorney in the Washington County Attorney’s Office, said he came to the same conclusion as the city: no wrongdoing or intent of wrongdoing.
“Someone seems to be using the city, the county attorney, the state auditor and the news — anybody they can get — to try to damage her reputation,” Ence said. “And that’s unfortunate because she didn’t do anything wrong.”
There was nothing unethical in how Frei built her business, Dickie said. Because of her job with the city, Frei knew exactly what to put in her software to make it effective, Dickie said.
“I understand (iWorQ) had a business and some girl doesn’t have a degree in this kind of technology, then all of a sudden she’s done very well with her business,” Dickie said. “I think it’s hurting them. That’s what I think, but I don’t absolutely know what their motive is.”
Despite the allegations and all the headache caused by them, Frei said it doesn’t matter for the success of her company.
“My business is growing and successful,” Frei said. “And that is all I need to focus on and be proud of.”
On Feb. 21 in St. George, Frei was presented with the Industry Award for Excellence by the Utah Chapter International Code Council, an organization for people who manage building construction in Utah.
The future is bright for My City Inspector, Frei said.
“My goal is to go across the country for sure,” Frei said. “But it’s amazing because it can track anything. It doesn’t have to just be building inspections.”
Frei is now looking for ways to use her code to branch out to other fields that her software can be applied to.
“I will never settle,” Frei said. “I never build something and think that’s good enough. That’s my inventive mind. I’m always looking for ways to streamline it and make it better.”
But before My City Inspector starts to be used across the nation, Frei said the next thing she’s looking forward to is a real office space for her company. Even though she lives in St. George, Frei said plans are already in the works to get an office back in Santa Clara.
Frei’s story of success is “the American dream,” she said, and everyone can be successful with the right mindset.
“You have to work hard, and if you try your best to be good and kind, then good things will come to you,” Frei said. “It’s as simple as that.”
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