As the national unemployment rate hovers around 9%, one Carrollton-based company claims to empower women to become successful, profitable, independent business owners. However, the BBB warns that a multi-level sales opportunity to sell shoes from the business called To The Nines has failed to provide job seekers across the country with a viable home business.
In January, To The Nines and its parent company, Iamaa Direct, began recruiting entrepreneurial hopefuls into a multi-level marketing business opportunity which involved the direct selling of designer shoes. However, since September, the BBB has received 34 complaints alleging that To The Nines and Iamaa Direct charged individuals up to $5,000 in business opportunity fees and failed to deliver any shoes. Both businesses have BBB ratings of F due to failure to respond to complaints.
“High pressure to invest and exaggerated earnings claims are red flags to look into any multi-level marketing offer more carefully,” said Jeannette Kopko, spokesperson for the BBB serving Dallas and Northeast Texas. “Take time to look into the track record of the business, including checking with the BBB. Remember that new businesses may only be able to project possible earnings, and actual earnings will depend on a number of factors.”
To The Nines first came to the BBB’s attention when the original president, Nicole Jones, approached the BBB with concerns that her business partner, Kenny Davis, was deceiving her and job seekers.
Specifically, Ms. Jones stated concerns that over $600,000 in consumer’s business opportunity fees appeared to be unaccounted for. Her concerns were amplified by the discovery that Mr. Davis had been convicted of securities fraud in 2003 for his actions relating to Dallas-based Smart-Mart, Inc.
On September 16, 2011, the BBB received a copy of Ms. Jones’ resignation letter, in which she stated, “I cannot be part of a company that I believe is misrepresenting things about our business, is not acting in an ethical and honest way with our representatives or myself, is not willing or able to provide me with accurate financial reports as the President of the company and is being otherwise generally non-responsive to my requests for information.”
Shortly after, Debra Aaron took over as president of To The Nines. Ms. Aaron was previously the president of Crowd Sourcing International, a multi-level sales company which claimed to pay job seekers for recording the location of automotive license plates. Crowd Sourcing International has a BBB rating of F due to complaints and failure to substantiate claims about the business opportunity. For the BBB Business Review on Crowd Sourcing International, see http://www.bbb.org/dallas/business-reviews/multi-level-selling-companies… .
Complaints on To the Nines and Iamaa Direct describe failure to provide ordered shoes in accordance with the business opportunity plan and difficulties receiving refunds.
One recent complaint from a Florida consumer explained that “They took my entry fee to the company as a regional director of To The Nines, LLC. which was $4,896.00 via wire transfer from my bank to theirs. I was promised my own website with shoes to sell. They took mine and several hundred other consultant fees as well and closed their doors.”
Complaints are from Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington.
Between Iamaa Direct and To The Nines, the companies have failed to respond to 28 of the 34 complaints to the BBB. For the BBB Business Review on To the Nines, see http://www.bbb.org/dallas/business-reviews/multi-level-selling-companies… . For the BBB Business Review on IAMAA Direct, see http://www.bbb.org/dallas/business-reviews/business-consultants/iamaa-di… .
In addition, the BBB has been unsuccessful in contacting Mr. Davis to address the BBB’s concerns regarding the company’s business model.
The BBB advises anyone who is considering investing in a business opportunity, whether online or offline, to look into the business, the details of the offer, and the market for the product or service. The BBB the and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offer these tips:
1. Consider a business opportunity carefully. If it claims buyers can earn a certain income, how many previous purchasers achieved those earnings?
2. Check out the business. Contact the attorney general’s office, state or county consumer protection agency and Better Business Bureau where the business opportunity promoter is based to find out whether there is any record of unresolved complaints.
3. Consult an attorney, accountant or other business advisor before you put any money down or sign any papers. Entering into a business opportunity can be costly, so it’s best to have an expert check out the contract first. If the promoter requires a deposit, ask your attorney to establish an escrow account where the deposit can be maintained by a third party until you make the deal.
4. Take your time. Promoters of fraudulent business opportunities are likely to use high-pressure sales tactics to get you to buy in. If the business opportunity is legitimate, it’ll still be around when you’re ready to decide.
To check out a business, find BBB Accredited Businesses, view tips and alerts for consumers and businesses, or file a complaint, start at www.bbb.org.