Starting a startup without any business experience can be daunting.
But that didn’t stop Chrisanti Indiana – who was just 24 years old when she created Social Bella.
“You have nothing to lose, that’s really the advantage of starting young,” Indiana, now 31, told CNBC’s Make It.
The Indonesian beauty and self-care retailer has raised about $225 million since 2018, and has drawn 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 expanded to 48 stores in Indonesia and 13 stores in Vietnam.
Indiana tells CNBC’s Do It How he turned his startup into a successful multi-million dollar company.
1. Be aggressive
When you’re running a business, adapting to change is key, Indiana said, especially when you least expect it.
Like all businesses around the world, Indiana had to navigate the Covid pandemic, which coincided with its company’s fifth anniversary, he said.
“We’re very excited about 2020… we planned a lot of campaigns and events, and then it’s a disaster. It’s shocking,” Indiana added.
“There is a lockdown and a very different situation. Not only for the customers, but also for the members.”
As a marketing leader, Indiana led a rapid change in direction during a “time of confusion,” by participating in online programs and shifting her focus from makeup to home-based personal care.
“It’s a tough learning curve because you have to manage the team, make sure it’s good and let everyone know that we can do this together,” Indiana said.
“It’s about making sure you’re strong enough to make a dramatic change.”
2. Do the right thing
The idea for Sociolla came in 2015, when Indiana discovered an online boom in fake makeup products in Indonesia.
The products are sometimes sold at a lower original price, he said.
The e-commerce platform is Indiana’s solution to the problem – through it, consumers can get quality products, although approved by the Indonesian authorities.
“Since we started… we make sure we only work with authorized distributors or only brand owners.”
But the road wasn’t easy, especially when awareness about 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 also want to make sure that you are doing the right thing,” he added.
“It’s a challenge to really educate consumers that cheap isn’t always good.”
But the plan seems to have worked. Social Bella has now more than 30 million employees across all its business units, according to Indiana, selling 12,000 products from 400 brands worldwide.
The business has also caught the attention of investors – the latest fundraising is $ 56 million, led by the US equity firm L Catterton.
“It’s been a long journey but I’m proud that we chose to do the right thing from day one to today.”
3. Choose the right leaders
Although being a young entrepreneur hasn’t held him back, Indiana admits that there are “a lot of things” he doesn’t know about entrepreneurship.
That’s why Indiana attributes part of Social Bella’s success to the diverse backgrounds and skills of its employees.
Indiana, who has a background in the industry, leads the brand and marketing – while his brother and president Christopher Madiam, who is educated in computers, brings technical knowledge to the table.
John Rasjid, Social Bella’s CEO, has a background in finance.
“Having the two of us working together is really important to me, we support each other and we have a lot of energy.”
His brother Madiam, who has been Indiana’s role model since childhood, has been a source of strength, he said.
“He always pushes me to grow, learn and accept challenges with an open mind and a positive attitude,” he said.
“It’s easy to tell people what they want to hear, but Chris always told me the truth. And that’s one thing I’m grateful for.”
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