Rob Holmes has a business that not many people do. He works with customers — fairs, festivals and other event organizers — to examine the financial impact of adverse weather on their enterprise. As the name implies, Spectrum Weather and Specialty Insurance deals with snow insurance, insurance for promotions, temperature, wind and hail insurance. Other insurances include event cancellation, special event liability insurance and event insurance needs for conferences, trade shows and conventions.
What exactly does your business do?
“I am an insurance broker who provides weather insurance coverage. When adverse, extreme and unacceptable weather rolls in and how it affects fairs and festivals, the festival organizer can have his or her revenue impacted. Costs are incurred and the organizer can recoup some of that. My clients can be anything from a small street dance to the Minnesota State Fair.”
What does your business name mean?
“The name Spectrum is aimed at the wide range of weather. It’s meant to be all-encompassing. The other aspect of my business is the snow removal industry, especially in places north of here such as Chicago and Detroit. I also have homeowners and condo associations, there’s insurance to cover losses. Every policy is customized for that specific client. It’s always about education.”
How did you get started in this field?
“I am a trained research meteorologist, having studied at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I went to Antarctica nine times as a graduate student, doing research and collecting data that is shared by biologists and climatologists. I moved to the area to work for Aquila Energy in their weather risk management division. They wanted to know about weather triggers and influences on revenues. It was data analysis. When Aquila dissolved, some of us created a new venture. That wasn’t quite the right fit, and I founded Spectrum.”
What makes this business challenging?
“I look at historic weather data and I meet with people, mainly here in the Midwest. I travel quite a bit, probably two to three times a month. ... I may have to present to many people. I must be organized and efficient; I wear many hats.”
Who do you go to when you need business advice?
“As a small business owner myself, I talk to other small business owners, sometimes my clients. I consult with them. As a meteorology student, I had no business classes. I didn’t know about marketing opportunities. Insurance is the commodity, but it’s about the relationship with the agent.”
What makes this business rewarding?
“I work with people who are often small business leaders or volunteers, perhaps chambers of commerce and all the efforts can be ‘washed away.’ When I get the call on Monday that it rained, I can start the process of that claim. It helps ensure that these events can happen the next year. I would hate to see these fairs and festivals disappear.”
What surprises people most about your business?
“More often than not, people say they have never heard of this sort of insurance, but then they will tell me it makes sense. The dollar amount is relative to the entity putting on the event. It’s a neat little niche. I have learned about a specific industry where I am able to offer solutions to problems. It’s a mix of science and business acumen.”
What’s next for your business?
“The business is at the cusp of expansion. Perhaps time is coming soon to move from a home-based business to an office. I have three kids who are growing older. I am continually looking at new ventures. I have been looking at haunted houses. Think about their business being four or five weekends in October. Rain can be an issue for those waiting in line or not wanting to wait in line. Then there are corn mazes and automobile races. I have an Indy race and NASCAR races too that I cover. There are local track races. I expect new products soon.”