She built a startup that raised millions, shares 3 tips

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

Launching a startup with no business experience can be intimidating.

But that didn’t stop Crisanti Indiana, who was just 24 when she founded Social Bella.

“You have nothing to lose, it’s actually a gain, starting over,” Indiana, now 31, told CNBC’s Make It.

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

The company started in 2015 as an e-commerce platform called Sociolla, but 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. Be nimble

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

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

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

“There was a lock-in 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, it’s actually a gain by starting young,” said Crisanti Indiana, who launched her startup Social Bella when she was 24.

As chief marketing officer, Indiana quickly changed direction at a “very confusing time,” moving to online events and shifting focus from cosmetics to home self-care.

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

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

2. Do what is right

The idea for Sociolla was born in 2015 when Indiana discovered the spread of fake cosmetics online in Indonesia.

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

The e-commerce platform was the solution to Indiana’s problem, allowing consumers to get safe, authentic products certified by Indonesian authorities.

“Since we started … we make sure that we only work with authorized distributors or only 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 of Social Bella

But the approach wasn’t easy, especially when awareness of 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 consumers that cheap doesn’t always mean better.”

But this strategy seems to have paid off. Social Bella is now more than 30 million users across all its business units, according to Indiana, selling 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 attracted the attention of investors, with its last fundraising round reaching $56 million and led by US private equity firm L Catterton.

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

3. Choose the right managers

Although being a young entrepreneur never held her back, Indiana admitted that she didn’t know “a lot of things” 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, provides technical expertise.

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

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

Social Bella

“It’s been really important to me that I have two co-founders, we support each other and we have a really great dynamic.”

She said her brother Madiam, who has been Indiana’s role model since she was young, has been a special source of strength.

“He constantly encourages me to grow, learn and take on challenges 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 the one thing I’m most grateful for.”

Don’t miss: This millennium was an adventurous one during the pandemic. Now her startup has raised over $225 million

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