Yasmine Salem Hamdan, founder, Coaches & Company
The rise of the digital marketplace has been beneficial to both business owners and consumers. Entrepreneurs no longer face the expensive barrier of brick-and-mortar storefronts and offices, and they can market and sell their products or services across the country and the world. For consumers, purchases can be made from the comfort of their home with the click of a button.
While online business has its perks, it can be risky for both entrepreneurs and buyers. Yasmine Salem Hamdan has made it her mission to protect the people on both sides of the transaction. A lawyer by profession, Salem Hamdan noticed that the online market was filled with women building digital businesses but missing the legal foundation that would protect their brands.
“I saw that they were oblivious to the legal principles that would help them establish a lasting business…It was clear there was a gap in their knowledge, and that they weren’t sure where they could access this information that would help them build a legal foundation for their business,” Salem Hamdan recalled.
Tools for protected and profitable businesses
Using her legal background and the feedback of the women in her social media network, Salem Hamdan filled the gap with Coaches & Company, offering legal resources to help women build protected and profitable businesses. Their online shop offers downloadable contract templates that cover all the essentials from service agreements to privacy policies, to help women safeguard their businesses.
“Bringing Coaches & Company to the world was about providing access to education and tools that make it possible to get legal protection and foundation in place in the early stages of your business, particularly those first three years. [We do it] in a way that’s more accessible and user-friendly, and that takes [out] all the confusing and intimidating legal language that is challenging for the average person to grasp, much less apply.” Salem Hamdan said.
Consumers need protection too
Through Coaches & Company, Salem Hamdan helps legitimate digital entrepreneurs protect themselves, but she recognizes that not all online businesses are trustworthy. The online marketplace has made it easier than ever for consumers to be misled and taken advantage of.
“Businesses can easily position themselves to promote deception and fraud within the container of selling products or services, and the general public is not equipped to distinguish between something that is legitimate and something that is not,” Salem Hamdan noted.
Online business scams have been steadily rising, with the Better Business Bureau reporting an 87% increase between 2015 and 2022. Some businesses accept payment for products or services and disappear without delivering. Others are replicating real businesses’ websites to mislead their customers.
Though the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is monitoring these issues and taking actions against unlawful businesses, Salem Hamdan wants to empower consumers to protect themselves before they’re scammed. That’s why she recently launched Crème de la Crème, a database of vetted and verified professionals in over 50 industries.
The 4Cs to avoid online business scams
Crème de la Crème uses a 22-step verification process to qualify businesses before they’re added to the directory. While the average consumer may not have the time to implement such a rigorous review, Salem Hamdan recommends the 4Cs – consistency, credibility, capacity, and contract – as key indicators buyers should use before investing in online brands.
Look for a consistent digital presence
Salem Hamdan advised consumers to be diligent about examining the digital footprint of businesses they plan to buy from. She emphasized the importance of checking for cohesion in their digital footprint across all their online platforms.
“Hit Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and their website. Check them out on YouTube and wherever you listen to podcasts. Download their free resources and lower ticker offers. See if they are consistent in their online presence and thought leadership,” Salem Hamdan said.
Remember results are the best proof of credibility
Businessowners will speak highly of their product and service, but that doesn’t mean they can deliver what they promise. Salem Hamdan advised buyers to look for businesses who have satisfied clients and positive results.
“Go beyond fluff and lofty promises to make sure they are legit and have created real, tangible results repeatedly. Look at their credentials and their resume. Most importantly, look at their track record of helping others achieve results similar to those you seek. Ask for case studies or reviews and reach out to those clients to ask them about their experience working with that [business],” Salem Hamdan recommended.
Make sure your needs and their capacity are aligned
Although a business may be consistent and credible, it doesn’t always mean they are able to deliver the specific results you need when you need them. Salem Hamdan warned consumers to be intentional about hiring someone who has the capacity – in time, staffing, and skills – to get the job done.
“Does it make sense for you to hire an independent contractor, somebody who is outside of your organization, to provide a service that is limited in scope? Or are you looking for more expansive support? It’s also important to keep in mind that when you’re hiring a professional service provider, you’re not hiring them as an employee…they are not entirely devoted to servicing you or your company. You’re not their only client,” Salem Hamdan said.
Read your contract carefully before you sign anything
Salem Hamdan noted service providers who don’t provide contracts should be avoided, but receiving a contract is only the first step. Customers should review agreements carefully, ensure the terms are what they agreed to, and ask questions about anything they don’t understand.
“Take note of any guarantees or lack thereof in the contract, as well as the company’s refund policy…If you aren’t sure what the terms of the contract mean, know that you can ask the person or the company [for clarity], Salem Hamdan said.
She also cautioned consumers against making payments via platforms like Cashapp or Venmo which are not intended for merchant services and do not offer consumer protections if the service is subpar or fraudulent.
Salem Hamdan encouraged online shoppers to apply the four Cs when shopping for services online, even with well-known businesses that may seem reputable on the surface, because the best protection is diligence.
“It comes down to doing your homework and being proactive and patient before you decide to make an investment of not just your money but also your time, because they’re both valuable assets that are at risk if we make an investment that doesn’t pan out to be positive.”
Yasmine Salem Hamdan, founder, Coaches & Company