Raining Success: Greenwood-based Forecaster Turns Hobby Into Million Dollar Business
Writer / Michelle Kaufman
Photographer / Brian Brosmer
What started as a hobby and passion six years ago has now turned into a million dollar business in Greenwood.
BAMWX was co-founded in May 2011 and now employs six people. Co-founder and chief meteorologist Michael Clark says forecasting started as a hobby and something that he did for fun.
“We were putting out weather forecasts on social media and they were pretty good, they were pretty accurate, and we had people who would suggest that maybe we start charging, kind of start our own private service,” Clark says. “It’s something I’ve always loved so I thought well, what the heck. Everything we’ve ever done has been something that has been suggested by another customer or client. We just do everything that people want us to do. It’s really more of a passion. We enjoy this and turned it into a business.”
Clark quit his job and finished his degree before starting the business. BAMWX provides weather forecasts to businesses such as the Cincinnati Reds, the I-69 development project, St. Francis hospitals and the 500 Festival Committee. Clients are also located in several other states, such as Arizona and North Carolina.
A typical week at BAMWX is Monday through Friday from 4:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., where the team gets the forecasts to their clients as early as possible.
“If you’ve got guys who are construction companies, whatever the case may be, they need that forecast information early so they can make decisions on how to go about their day,” Clark says. “Our job is to get in early, look at the computer models, look at satellite, look at everything we can to come up with the best picture of what we see going on and get our product out. We essentially provide them with weather information to make sure they can make sound decisions.
It’s a lot of data analysis and a lot of thinking outside the box,” he adds. “Weather is not something you can just get out of a textbook and tell people about it — there’s a lot of just outside the box thinking that’s required in order to do well with it.”
Clark says weather is different and challenging every day, but he enjoys the challenge because he doesn’t want things to be the exact same every day. If a severe weather event or snowstorm occurs, the BAMWX team can work up to 20 hour days until the storm comes and passes.
“I love watching predictions and things come to fruition,” Clark says. “A lot of people over the years will tell you that you can’t predict the weather and you can be wrong half the time and still have a job. A lot of that’s not true because if I was wrong half the time I wouldn’t have a business. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do. There’s actually a system and a science to it.”
In addition to weather forecasting, Clark and his team do agriculture and energy forecasting for businesses and farmers, too. Weather can determine what kind of seed farmers purchase, what crop they grow and how they treat their crop. Turning on a water irrigation system can cost thousands of dollars, but by consulting with BAMWX, they can tell the farmer if a storm or other weather event is coming.
“A simple span of five days at 100 degrees can completely ruin a corn crop,” Clark says. “If you have major drought situations, then you obviously will have a problem with the vegetation and the crop. So, long term seasonal forecasting is something that is crucial for farmers and for the agricultural world. We provide that for them, we provide them what they need to make those decisions.”
Energy-demand forecasting can also have a major financial impact. In Dallas, Texas, a five degree temperature difference from 90 to 95 degrees can cost $23 million in one 24 hour period. The forecast helps energy companies and commodity groups gauge what stocks for items such as natural gas will do and what the cooling demand will be.
“Weather is an economy driver,” Clark says. “If you stop and think for a minute, weather is a factor in everything that you do every day. So, we simply try to provide information on what that weather’s going to be doing so everyone can do what they want to do. We are able to provide attention to detail that free services cannot and will not provide. The time and effort and analysis that is put into our stuff, you just can’t compete with it. A news station has to get their forecasts out in three minutes. We have seven hours. We have the ability to put more outside the box thinking towards it, more experience toward it and more time and effort into the product.”