She built a startup that raised millions, shares 3 tips

How Indonesia's counterfeiting problem spurred a multi-million dollar beauty business

Launching a startup without any business experience can be daunting.

But that didn’t stop Chrisanti Indiana – who was just 24 years old when she co-founded Social Bella.

“You have nothing to lose, it’s actually a benefit to start young,” Indiana, now 31, told CNBC Make It.

The Indonesian beauty and personal care retailer has raised around $225 million since 2018, drawing an impressive list of investors including East Ventures, Jungle Ventures and Temasek.

The business started as an e-commerce platform called Sociolla in 2015, but expanded to 48 stores in Indonesia and 13 stores in Vietnam.

Indiana tells CNBC Make It how she transformed her startup into a multi-million dollar beauty company.

1. Make clay

When running a business, adapting to change is essential, said Indiana, especially when you least expect it.

Like all businesses around the world, Indiana had to navigate the Covid pandemic, which coincided with his company’s fifth anniversary, he said.

“We were very excited in 2020 … we planned a lot of campaigns and events, and then the pandemic hit. It was quite shocking,” Indiana added.

“There was a shutdown and the attitude was very different. Not only for the customers, but the team as well.”

As chief marketing officer, Indiana quickly led a change in direction during “a very confusing time,” by pivoting to online events and shifting her focus from makeup to home self-care.

“It was a steep learning curve because you also need to manage the team as well, make sure everyone is ok and let them know that we can go through this together,” said Indiana.

“It’s about making sure you’re agile enough to go through dynamic changes.”

2. Do the right thing

The idea for Sociolla came about in 2015, when Indiana discovered the online proliferation of fake makeup products in Indonesia.

These products were sometimes sold at “a fraction” of the original price, he said.

The e-commerce platform was Indiana’s solution to the problem – through it, consumers can find products that are safe, authentic and certified by the Indonesian authorities.

“Since we started … we make sure that we only work with authorized distributors or only brand owners.”

When you have a business, you want it to be successful. But at the same time, you also want to make sure you’re doing the right thing.

Christian Indiana

Co-founder and CMO, Social Bella

But this approach was not easy, especially when awareness of the authenticity of beauty products was low then, Indiana said.

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“When you have a business, you want it to be successful. But at the same time, you also want to make sure that you are doing the right thing,” he added.

“It was a challenge to really educate consumers that cheap doesn’t always mean better.”

But this strategy seems to have paid off. Social Bella has now more than 30 million users across all its business units, according to Indiana, selling an inventory of 12,000 products from 400 brands worldwide.

Social Bella started as an e-commerce platform called Sociolla. It has expanded to 47 stores in Indonesia and 16 stores in Vietnam.

The business has also caught the eye of investors – the last fundraising round it raised was $56 million, led by US Private Equity firm L Catterton.

“It’s been a long journey but I’m really proud that we chose to do the right thing from day one until today.”

3. Choose the right leaders

While being a young entrepreneur never held him back, Indiana admitted there were “a lot of things” that he didn’t know about running a business.

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That’s why Indiana attributes part of Social Bella’s success to the diverse backgrounds and expertise of its co-founders.

Indiana, who has a background in creative industries, leads marketing and sales – while his brother and president Christopher Madiam, who studied computing, brings technical knowledge to the table.

John Rasjid, Social Bella’s CEO, has a background in finance.

Social Bella was founded in 2015 by Chrisanti Indiana, her brother and president Christopher Madiam (left) and CEO John Rasjid (right).

Social Bella

“Having my two co-founders was really important to me, we support each other and we have a really great dynamic.”

His brother Madiam, who has been a role model for Indiana since he was young, was a particular source of strength, he said.

“He always pushes me to grow, learn and embrace challenges with an open mind and positive attitude,” he said.

“It’s easier to tell people the nice things they want to hear, but Chris has always been honest with me. And that’s something that I’m most grateful for.”

don’t miss: This millennial took a gamble during the pandemic. Now his startup has raised more than $ 225 million

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