I built a startup that raised millions, and I shared 3 tips

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

Launching a startup without any work experience can be daunting.

But that didn’t stop Crisanti Indiana – who was only 24 when she co-founded Social Bella.

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

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

It started working as an e-commerce platform called social 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 company.

1. Be agile

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

Like all businesses around the world, Indiana has had to navigate the corona virus disease pandemicWhich coincided with her company’s fifth anniversary, she said.

Indiana added, “We were so excited in 2020… We planned so many campaigns and events, and then the pandemic hit. It was so shocking.”

“There was a closure and the mood was completely different. Not only for the customers, but for the team as well.”

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

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

“It was a very steep learning curve because you also need to manage the team as well, making sure everyone is okay and telling them we can do it together,” Indiana said.

“It’s about making sure you have enough flexibility to make dynamic changes.”

2. Do what’s right

Sociolla’s idea emerged in 2015, when Indiana discovered the prevalence of fake makeup products online in Indonesia.

She said those products were sometimes sold at “a fraction” of the price of the original product.

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

“Since we started…we ensure that we only work with authorized distributors or 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 the right thing.

Crisanti Indiana

Co-founder and Director of Marketing, Social Bella

This approach was not easy, Indiana said, especially when awareness about the authenticity of beauty products was low at the time.

She added, “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.”

“It’s been hard to really teach consumers that cheaper doesn’t always mean better.”

But this strategy appears to have paid off. Social Bella now has More than 30 million users across all of its business units, according to Indiana, sell 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 also caught the eye of investors – the latest fundraising round 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. Choosing the right leaders

While being a young entrepreneur never held her back, Indiana admitted there were “a lot of things” she didn’t know about running a company.

That’s why Indiana attributes part of Social Bella’s success to the diverse backgrounds and experiences of its founders.

Indiana, who has a background in the creative industry, leads branding and marketing — while her brother and boss Christopher Madiam, who studied computing, brings tech knowledge to the table.

John Rasjd, 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 Rasgade (right).

Social Bella

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