What started out as a storm-chasing hobby over time morphed into a life-saving business. Michael Clark and his friends, Bryan and Amanda Kilgore, all went to Whiteland High School together.
“We loved storm chasing, and we were successful at getting footage of some good storms as well as close-ups of tornadoes,” Clark says.
People started paying for that footage so they monetized the storm-chasing aspect of it. As time passed, however, that piece of it died as the trio recognized the need for the public to have access to a better weather forecast. They started a Facebook page where they posted things randomly and intermittently, then began a subscription service where people could get more information.
BAM (short for Brian, Amanda, and Michael) officially launched in May 2011. He calls it a 24/7, 365 job.
“You can have a week of next to nothing followed by a week of nonstop work because it’s all weather-dependent,” Clark says.
Though BAMWX started out as a three-person team, the workload grew over time, so in 2016 they hired Kirk Hinz (who became their COO this year). They now have 16 people on payroll.
Since BAMWX launched, advancements in technology have exploded. When they first started, they offered a subscription service for $50/year or $5/month which gave subscribers access to a 10-minute daily YouTube video that Clark made. The video included no commentary or graphics, but 2,500 signed up for it. As they evolved, the team made the emails more professional and loaded it with information, graphics, commentary and video in order to provide more information to the end user.
“We found that people were starting to take our information and make business decisions with it and we thought that was worth more than $5,” Clark says. So they came up with an annual commercial-level subscription for $1,000. They took that model and expanded on sending email forecasts. Now they have created an application for phones, iPads or computers where they send location-specific weather info to devices every hour.
“You get hour-by-hour forecasts, 10-day forecasts, radar, alerts. You can talk to meteorologists 24/7,” Clark says. “What we offer now compared to what we offered initially is not even in the same league.”
Technological advances in cellphones, iPhones and apps means that they can get info into someone’s hands to where they don’t need to go to anywhere else but the BAMWX platform to make decisions about closures, cancellations, evacuations, etc. They deliver weather forecasts for businesses such as the MLB, the NFL, the NCAA, as well as farmers, construction companies, schools and 911 centers.
“We provide a source of information to them that’s far better than what they would get for free off the internet,” says Clark, co-founder and chief meteorologist.
The BAMWX team has had multiple scenarios where they have not only saved people tens of thousands of dollars in split-second decisions but they have also saved lives.
“We’ve had instances where if people had not listened to our advice, 10,000 people at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway could have been hit with a hailstorm and severe thunderstorm that likely would have resulted in casualties,” Clark says. “And the organization that put it on would have probably been completely wiped out due to not keeping spectators safe.”
Things like the state fair stage collapse could have been prevented had people evacuated and taken shelter.
Three years ago, a farmer from Amboy, Indiana, inquired about a possible subscription to BAMWX. He wasn’t sold right away, but that same day severe weather was forecasted in the area.
“If I know a customer is in a location who’s under the gun, we’ll reach out to them personally and tell them to take cover,” Clark says.
Even though this farmer was not a client, Clark let him know that a tornado was headed for his house and he should seek shelter. Not surprisingly, the man subscribed soon thereafter.
“He said that was one of the best customer service experiences he’s ever had,” Clark says. “I was just glad we were able to help him out.”
In recent years, as BAMWX has become more financially successful, they have given back to the community. For instance, they give to The Cure Starts Now, a foundation in which all donations go directly toward research to find a cure for cancer.
“When you go to these events, you’ll hear some of the saddest stories because these are 3, 4 and 5-year-old children who are going to die from cancer,” Clark says. “We just want to do what we can to help.”
What sparked their interest in supporting this foundation was when a 4-year-old local girl, Adalynn Jessen, was diagnosed with brain cancer.
“She got that diagnosis in June 2020 and passed away in May 2021,” Clark says. “We went on that journey with the family. It’s bittersweet.”
There was a day when if Clark saw a big weather event forming like a huge snowstorm, he would get geeked out. Now while there’s still a bit of inner geek at play, a bigger part of him dials into the business side of things to make sure people are alerted in a timely and accurate manner.
“I must admit, it’s good to have a big storm from time to time to remind me of why I’m doing this,” he says.
To learn more about BAMWX or to sign up for the service, visit BAMWX.com.