She built a startup that raised millions, shares 3 tips

How Indonesia's fake 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 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, attracting an impressive list of investors that include East Ventures, Jungle Ventures and Temasek.

The 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 turned her startup into a multimillion-dollar beauty company.

1. Be alert

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

Like all businesses around the world, Indiana had to navigate the Covid pandemic, which coincided with her company’s fifth anniversary, she 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 lockdown and the mood was very different. Not only for the customers, but also the team.”

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“You have nothing to lose, that’s actually the benefit of starting young,” said Chrisanti Indiana, who launched her startup Social Bella when she was 24 years old.

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

“It’s been a steep learning curve because you also have to manage the team, make sure everyone is OK 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 in 2015, when Indiana discovered the online proliferation of fake makeup products in Indonesia.

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

The e-commerce platform was Indiana’s solution to this problem – through it, consumers can get 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 owners of the brand.”

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.

Christianity Indiana

Co-founder and CMO, Social Bella

But the approach is not easy, especially when the awareness about the authenticity of beauty products was low back, 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 now has 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 business has also caught the eye of investors – its latest round of fundraising reached $56 million, led by US it. 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 guide

While being a young entrepreneur has never held her back, Indiana acknowledged 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 the diverse backgrounds and expertise of its co-founders.

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, 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 CEO John Rashid (right).

Social Bella

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

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

“He constantly pushes me to grow, learn and embrace 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.”

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