Launching a startup without any business experience may be daunting.
But that didn’t stop Chrisanti Indiana — who was just 24 years old 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 around $225 million since 2018, and drawn an impressive list of investors that include East Ventures, Jungle Ventures and Temasek.
The business started out as an e-commerce platform called Sociolla in 2015, but it 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 multimillion-dollar beauty company.
When running a business, adapting to change is paramount, said Indiana, especially when you least expect it.
Like all businesses around the world, Indiana’s had to navigate 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 quite shocking,” Indiana added.
“There was a lockdown and the mood was very different. Not just for the customers, but the team as well.”
As the chief marketing officer, Indiana quickly led a change of direction during “a very confusing time,” by pivoting to online events and shifting its focus from makeup to self-care from home.
“It was a steep learning curve because you also need to manage the team as well, making sure that everybody’s OK and letting them know that we can go through this together,” said Indiana.
“It’s about making sure that you’re agile enough to go through dynamic changes.”
The idea for Sociolla came about in 2015, when Indiana discovered the online proliferation of counterfeit makeup products in Indonesia.
Those products were sometimes selling at “a fraction” of the original’s price, 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 ensure that we only work with authorized distributors or only the brand owners.”
But that approach wasn’t easy, especially when the awareness about the authenticity of beauty products was low back then, 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’re doing the right thing,” she added.
“It was a challenge to really educate the consumers that cheap doesn’t always mean better.”
But that strategy seems to have paid off. Social Bella now has more than 30 million users across all its business units, according to Indiana, selling an inventory of 12,000 products from 400 brands worldwide.
The business has also caught the eye of investors — its latest round of fundraising raked in $56 million, led by U.S. 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 and till today.”
While being a young entrepreneur has never held her back, Indiana acknowledged there were “a lot of things” that she didn’t know about running a business.
That’s why Indiana attributes part of Social Bella’s success to her co-founders’ diverse backgrounds and expertise.
Indiana, who has a background in the creative industry, leads branding and marketing — while her brother and president Christopher Madiam, who studied computing, brings technical knowledge to the table.
John Rasjid, Social Bella’s CEO, has a background in finance.
“Having my two co-founders has been really important for me, we support each other and we have a really great 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 embrace challenges with an open mind and positive attitude,” she said.
“It is easier to tell people nice things they want to hear, but Chris has always been honest with me. And that is one thing that I am most grateful for.”
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