'Brains, talent, chutzpah'
What do you need? This dynamic young woman can provide it.
By PAUL SWIDER, Times Staff Writer
Published September 2, 2007
Audri Cabness is an agent for your hair and nails, but she's stacking up more as an agent of change.
Cabness, 28, has slowly been growing what she calls a "luxury outcall service" that can bring to your door a hairstylist, makeup artist or manicurist. She also provides limo services, personal security, photographers and more.
"I love bringing people together," said Cabness, who is also a full-time student at the University of South Florida and squeezes in other work.
Cabness runs Spectrum Media from her cell phone as she flits about the region cross-pollinating between her Spectrum service providers and all manner of other professionals and creatives she encounters.
She just finished 18 months working with youths through the Tampa Housing Authority, but picked up a multitasking management gig with the Good Luck Cafe in Ybor City to go along with the promotion work she does for Shades of Monet cosmetics near Fort Lauderdale. She is a singer and has two inventions with patents pending, all while serving other Spectrum clients in New York, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere.
"I have the rest of my life to sleep," said the D.C. native, who moved here three years ago.
Spectrum started 10 years ago in New York as Cabness, the solo stylist, but her natural networking skills quickly transformed it into a growing enterprise. When she wanted to relaunch it here, she dreamed up another leveraging idea, cold-calling a real estate company to see if she could use a home for sale as a backdrop for a service display.
"Any kind of showing, I'm all for it," said Victor Tomlinson, of Edge Real Estate, who in March lent Cabness a home on Sixth Street S, expecting her to bring in a dozen people. Instead, limos rolled up with guests from around Tampa Bay and Spectrum providers. "There were about 80 people there, a really good group, doctors, business people. I was very impressed with her."
Others heap similar praise on Cabness' creative connectivity.
"She has a contact for whatever resource you need," said Gershom Faulkner, outreach coordinator for U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor. Faulkner worked with Cabness organizing and promoting Everyone's Youth United, an event in May connecting hip-hop culture and social issues. "She's an awesome young lady. We don't have enough like her."
A few months ago, Cabness joined a team that is turning the Good Luck Cafe into a novel cultural entertainment site.
"What does she do? What doesn't she do?" said owner Timothy Brown, whose Maryland family business, Brown Realty Investment, owns another Good Luck Cafe there. Brown said Cabness is involved in management, imaging, promotions, consulting, event planning and building strategic alliances. "She's making it happen. When you're able to find somebody like that for your team, you know you can go a long way."
Cabness has helped launch businesses, too. Five years ago she met Monet Colbert, a former Los Angeles actor and model who had moved to Florida and was starting a cosmetics line aimed at the fitness market. Colbert found Cabness while looking for makeup artists, but the two quickly hit it off.
"When I heard about Spectrum, I knew she was the perfect fit for me," Colbert said. "Her concept of a company is very unique. It takes a lot of time off my hands."
The "spa on wheels" concept has become more popular in the past few years, along with other outcall services, from cooking to pet grooming, but Cabness takes it steps further. She aims to make her Web site,spectrumediaimaging.com, a transaction center for a huge variety of services. She's even hoping to franchise Spectrum.
Cabness' many contacts and abilities would seem to prime her for more than Spectrum, but she's serious about it as its own profit center. She has developed a stable of nearly 50 providers to connect around the country with a few dozen regular clients and other occasional ones. She now wants to aim higher.
"I want more of the entertainment industry, but I really want the long money, corporate contracts," she said. Spectrum could provide services for employee appreciation, for corporate meetings or as customer rewards, she said.
"She's so young to have those things in her mind," said Dorothy Brown, one of Cabness' earliest area clients and now a close friend as well. "She's a go-getter."
Cabness says she gets her desire and energy from her mother, Dr. Jessica Cabness, a USF professor of social work who worked her way through three graduate degrees while raising a daughter alone.
"I used to tell her to slow down," Cabness says of her mother. "Now I've turned into her."
Cabness also touts the community. After swimming in the business world of the nation's capital and New York, she said she has found the most fertile ground here.
"There's such a network of young black entrepreneurs and we all support each other in our businesses," she said. "It's a combination of brains, talent and chutzpah."Paul Swider can be reached at 892-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org.