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, that’s actually the benefit of starting young,” Indiana, now 31, told CNBC Make It.

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

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

Indiana tells CNBC Make It how she turned her startup into a multimillion-dollar beauty company.

1. Be agile

When you’re running a business, adapting to change is extremely important, Indiana said, especially when you least expect it.

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

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

“There was a lockdown and the mood was very different. Not only for the customers, but also for the team.”

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“You have nothing to lose, that’s actually the advantage of starting young,” says Chrisanti Indiana, who launched her start-up Social Bella when she was 24 years old.

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

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

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

2. Do what is right

The idea for Sociolla originated in 2015, when Indiana discovered the online distribution of counterfeit makeup products in Indonesia.

Those products were sometimes sold at a fraction of the original’s price, she said.

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

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

If 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.

Chrysanthemum Indiana

Co-founder and CMO, Social Bella

But that approach wasn’t easy, especially when awareness about the authenticity of beauty products was low at the time, 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 you’re doing the right thing,” she added.

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

But that 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 since expanded to 47 stores in Indonesia and 16 stores in Vietnam.

The venture has also caught the eye of investors – its latest round of fundraising raised $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 to today.”

3. Choose the right leaders

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

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

Indiana, who has a background in the creative industry, leads branding and marketing — while her 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).

Socially Bella

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

Her brother Madiam, who was a role model for Indiana from a young age, was a particular source of strength, she said.

“He constantly pushes me to grow, learn and take on challenges with an open mind and positive attitude,” she said.

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

Don’t miss: This millennial took a gamble during the pandemic. Now her startup has raised over $225 million

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