Starting a startup with no business experience can be scary.
But that didn’t stop Chrysanti Indiana, who was just 24 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 nearly $225 million since 2018 and has an impressive list of investors including East Ventures, Jungle Ventures and Temasek.
The business 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 turned her startup into a multimillion-dollar beauty company.
1. Be flexible
When running a business, adapting to change is critical, especially when you least expect it, Indiana said.
Like all businesses around the world, Indiana said it had to manage the Covid pandemic, which coincided with its company’s fifth anniversary.
“We were very excited in 2020 … we had a lot of campaigns and events planned, then the pandemic hit. It was quite a shock,” Indiana said.
“There was a lock and the mood was very different. Not only for the customers but also for the team.”
As chief marketing officer, Indiana led a quick change of direction “at a very confusing time,” shifting to online events and shifting her 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 OK and let them know we can get through this together,” Indiana said.
“It’s about making sure you’re flexible enough to go through dynamic changes.”
2. Do the right thing
The idea for Sociolla came about in 2015 when Indiana discovered the online distribution of counterfeit makeup products in Indonesia.
These products were sometimes sold at “a fraction” of the original price, he said.
The e-commerce platform was Indiana’s solution to the problem – through which consumers can purchase products that are safe, authentic and certified by Indonesian authorities.
“Since our inception…we have made sure to only work with authorized distributors or only brand owners.”
But the approach wasn’t easy, especially since awareness of the authenticity of beauty products was low at the time, Indiana said.
“When you have a business, you want it to be successful. But at the same time, you want to make sure you’re doing the right thing,” he added.
“It was hard to teach consumers that cheaper doesn’t always mean better.”
But it seems that this strategy has paid off. Social Bella now According to Indiana, more than 30 million users across all business units sell an inventory of 12,000 products from 400 brands worldwide.
The business has also attracted the attention of investors, with the most recent fundraising round led by US private equity firm L Catterton totaling $56 million.
“It’s been a long road, but I’m really proud that we’ve chosen to do the right thing from day one to this day.”
3. Choose the right leaders
Although a young entrepreneur, Indiana never left him behind, he admitted there was “a lot” he didn’t know about running a business.
That’s why Indiana Social Bella attributes part of its success to the diverse backgrounds and experiences of its co-founders.
Indiana, who has a background in the creative industries, leads branding and marketing, while his brother and computing-educated president Christopher Madiam brings technical expertise to the table.
John Rasjid, CEO of Social Bella, has a background in finance.
“Having two co-founders was really important to me, we support each other and we have a really great dynamic.”
He said his brother Madiam, a role model for Indiana since his youth, was a special source of strength.
“He always pushes me to grow, learn and embrace challenges with an open mind and positive attitude,” she said.
“It’s easier to tell people the nice things they want to hear, but Chris has always been honest with me. That’s one thing I’m most grateful for.”
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