She built a startup that raised millions, shares 3 tips

How Indonesia's counterfeit problem fuels a multi-million dollar beauty business

Starting a startup without any business experience can be difficult.

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

“You have nothing to lose, that’s really the benefit of starting young,” Indiana, now 31, tells CNBC Make It.

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

This business started as an e-commerce platform called Sociolla in 2015, but it has since 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. Agility

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

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

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

“There was an outage and the mood was very different. Not just for the customer, but the team.”

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“You have nothing to lose, that’s really the benefit of starting young,” says Chrisanti Indiana, who started Social Bella when she was 24.

As chief marketing officer, Indiana quickly led a shift in direction in “very confusing times,” by shifting focus to online events and shifting focus from makeup to self-care. Take care of yourself at home.

“It’s been a steep learning curve because you also need to manage the team, make sure everyone’s okay, and let them know 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’s right

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

Those products are sometimes sold for “a fraction” of the original price, she said.

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

“Since we started … we make sure 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 it right.

Chrisanti Indiana

Co-Founder and CMO, Social Bella

But that approach wasn’t easy, especially when awareness of the authenticity of beauty products was low at the time, Indiana says.

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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 it right,” she added.

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

But that strategy seems to have paid off. Bella social existing more than 30 million users across all of its business units, according to Indiana, selling about 12,000 products from 400 brands worldwide.

Social Bella started out as an e-commerce platform called Sociolla. Since then, it has expanded to 47 stores in Indonesia and 16 stores in Vietnam.

The business has also attracted investor attention – its latest round of funding 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 and up until today.”

3. Choose the right leaders

Though being a young entrepreneur has never held her back, Indiana admits there are “a lot of things” she doesn’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 her co-founders.

Indiana, who has backgrounds in the creative industries, leads brands and marketing – while her brother and president Christopher Madiam, who studies computers, brings technical knowledge to the table.

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

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

Social Bella

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

Her brother, Madiam, who has been a role model for Indiana since she was a child, has been a special source of strength, she said.

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

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

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