Founder of OnlineDivas.com.au, Hollie Turner (appearing in the above video), is currently ducking creditors and a long line of dissatisfied members who are demanding their money back from the women’s networking site.
Australian Women Online has spoken to several women who say they have been let down, ripped off and in some cases, verbally abused by Hollie Turner, who is reportedly in the United States at present and can’t be reached. When reports surfaced last week that the TV program A Current Affair, were interested in doing a story on the Online Diva, Hollie Turner silenced her critics by promising to pay what she owed. But more than a week later, creditors say they are still waiting and that all their most recent attempts to contact Turner have failed.
I have to admit I never really liked the ‘Online Divas’ concept. Firstly, I think the name “divas” sends the wrong message. How many times have we heard an over-demanding, tantrum-throwing celebrity described in the media as a Diva? As a business woman, this is certainly not the message I would want to send to the business community.
Secondly, women’s business networks such as Online Divas, encourage women to network amongst themselves, instead of getting out there and mixing with the wider business community. Although it’s nice to see women supporting each other, the reality is that men still hold the majority of senior positions in business and therefore, it makes absolutely no sense for women to network only with other women.
Thirdly, I don’t think it’s fair to charge people for advice they could just as easily find online for free. I also didn’t appreciate being screamed at by Hollie Turner after I told her that I wouldn’t be promoting the launch of her website on Australian Women Online.
But despite my personal feelings, it really doesn’t give me any pleasure to have to report on the problems that have arisen in the Online Divas network.
Web designer, Lisa Taliana (www.talianadesign.com.au), says she is still owed $1,200 by Hollie Turner for services she completed for the Online Divas website back in July this year.
Lisa told Australian Women Online, “I took over from her previous web designer and she paid me very quickly for the first job. But she never paid me for the second job – where I basically designed her email template for her and also got her Drupal content management system back up and running.”
Although Hollie Turner has denied owing her the money, Lisa says she can prove she is owed the $1,200.
“I have saved all the emails where she agreed to pay me and I’ve also saved all the transcripts of our chats on Skype,” said Lisa.
In addition to the money she is owed for work performed for the Online Divas website, Lisa Taliana has joined the long list of Australian women who are demanding a refund of the $75 membership fee they were charged by Online Divas.
“I actually went to one of the first events they had and I wasn’t impressed. It’s just really bad advice that they give to people. I was actually a panelist at one of the events and the other girls who were there were just basically encouraging women to go off and do it themselves. A shopping cart isn’t actually easy to do on your own and a blog isn’t going to make you an entrepreneur,” said Lisa.
“There’s nothing happening with the website at the moment and she’s offering nothing to people as an incentive. She offers discounts to events but they get cancelled and she doesn’t return the money.”
The winner of the ‘I wanna be an Online Diva’ competition in 2008, Penny Flanders from www.missmoneypenny.net.au, says although she received free web design, she hasn’t received much else from Online Divas.
“I was also promised a laptop computer, Peep Toe Shoes, an Online Divas membership, mentoring and a Blackberry. Although I did receive the web design and the Blackberry, I had to sign up to a plan for the Blackberry so I was never able to use it,” said Penny.
“I’m still not listed as an Online Diva on the website and I am yet to receive the laptop, the shoes and the business mentoring. These promises are why I launched my business and now I’m left without knowing what to do.”
After the producers of A Current Affair were contacted, Hollie Turner did promise Penny she would deliver the laptop computer. But then in a strange twist to this story, the person Turner had been staying with in San Francisco, reportedly said their laptop had been stolen.
Like Lisa Taliana, Penny says she is fed up with Hollie Turner’s empty promises and wants her experiences to serve as a warning to others.
Sam Winter from www.sassisam.com, says she too is waiting for a refund of her $75 membership fee.
“Hollie has agreed to give me back my money but I haven’t seen it yet, so it could be just another empty promise. I also want to know from her why she charged some girls and not others to join Online Divas.”
Although only Hollie Turner knows her reasons for charging some the membership fee and not others, I would say the most likely explanation is that she wants to encourage women who have a high public profile to join the community – a strategy that has worked well, with Samantha Brett from AskSam, Lauren Smelcher from Cosmopolitan, Kylie Little from Essential Baby, Melanie Silva from Google and many others who can lend credibility to the site, featured on the home page of Online Divas.
We have been told there are many more women who are dissatisfied with the treatment they’ve received, but for one reason or another, they are afraid to come forward and talk about their experiences publicly. All three of the women I spoke to said that whenever they complained to Hollie Turner, they would often receive an abusive email from her.
“I do know many girls are unhappy with Online Divas and Hollie Turner. The difficult thing is getting people to talk about it,” said Penny Flanders. “Hollie knows this and she relies on it.”
12:30pm, 4 December 2009
Hollie Turner from Online Divas has contacted myself and the three women mentioned in this article. Hollie has refunded the membership fee owed to Sam and is currently making arrangements with Lisa to repay the money she owes for web design services. Hollie is also negotiating with Penny to deliver on her promise of a laptop computer.
Hollie has also asked that we remove the article from the website.