Youth was no obstacle to success for this founder of a multi-million dollar startup.  She shares 3 tips

Youth was no obstacle to success for this founder of a multi-million dollar startup. She shares 3 tips

How Indonesia's counterfeit 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 when she co-founded Social Bella.

“You have nothing to lose, that’s actually the advantage of starting young,” Indiana, now 31, told CNBC Make It.

The Indonesian beauty and personal care retailer has raised approximately $225 million since 2018 and built 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 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 multi-million dollar beauty business.

1. Be nimble

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

Like every business in the world, Indiana had to weather 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 pretty shocking,” Indiana added.

“There was confinement and the atmosphere was very different. Not only for the customers, but also for the team.”

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

As chief marketing officer, Indiana quickly led a change in direction during “a very confusing time,” turning to online events 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 everyone is okay and let them know we can get through this together,” Indiana said.

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

2. Do what is right

The idea for Sociolla was born in 2015, when Indiana discovered the online proliferation of counterfeit makeup products in Indonesia.

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

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

“Since we started…we have been careful to only work with authorized distributors or only with brand owners.”

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

Indian chrysanthemums

Co-founder and CMO, Social Bella

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

“When you have a business, you want it to succeed. 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 consumers that cheap doesn’t always mean better.”

But this strategy seems to have paid off. Social Bella now has more than 30 million users across all of 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 company has also caught the eye of investors – its latest 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 until today.”

3. Choose the right leaders

Although being a young entrepreneur never held her back, Indiana admitted there was “a lot” she didn’t know about running a business.

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 brand strategy and marketing, while her brother and president Christopher Madiam, who studied computer science, 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, his brother and chairman Christopher Madiam (left) and CEO John Rasjid (right).

Bella social

“Having my two co-founders was really important for me, we support each other and we have a very good 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 challenge myself with an open mind and a 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 something I’m very grateful for.”

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

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