Starting a startup with no business experience can be daunting.
But that didn’t stop Indiana’s Crisanti, who was just 24 when she founded Social Bella.
Indiana, now 31, told CNBC Make It: “You have nothing to lose, that’s actually the benefit of starting young.”
The Indonesian beauty and personal care retailer has raised nearly $225 million since 2018 and has lined up an impressive list of investors that includes East Ventures, Jungle Ventures and Temasek.
The business started as an e-commerce platform called Sociolla 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, it’s important to adapt to change, Indiana said, especially when you least expect it.
He said, like all businesses around the world, Indiana had to navigate the Covid pandemic, which coincided with his company’s fifth anniversary.
“We were very excited about 2020 … we planned a lot of campaigns and events, and then the pandemic hit. It was very surprising,” added Indiana.
“There was closure and the mood was very different. Not just for the customers, but the team as well.”
As chief marketing officer, Indiana made a quick change of direction to online events during a “very confusing time” and shifted her focus from makeup to home care.
“It’s been a steep learning curve because you also have to manage the team, make sure everyone’s OK and let them know we can get through this together,” Indiana said.
“It’s about making sure you’re strong enough to go through dynamic changes.”
2. Do the right thing
The idea for Sociolla was born in 2015 when Indiana discovered the online distribution of fake cosmetic products in Indonesia.
He said these products were sometimes sold at “a fraction” of the original price.
The e-commerce platform was the solution to the problem in Indiana – through which consumers can get safe, authentic and certified products by Indonesian authorities.
“Since we started … we have ensured that we only work with authorized distributors or only brand owners.”
But the approach wasn’t easy, especially when awareness of the authenticity of beauty products was low at the time, Indiana said.
“When you have a business, you want it to succeed. But at the same time, you also want to make sure you’re doing the right thing,” he added.
“It’s been a challenge to really educate consumers that cheaper doesn’t always mean better.”
But this strategy seems to have paid off. Now Bella has a social 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.
The business also attracted the attention of investors – the last round of fundraising was $56 million, led by US private equity firm L Catterton.
“It’s been a long journey, but I’m really proud that we’ve made the right choices from day one to today.”
3. Choose the right leaders
While being a young entrepreneur never failed him, Indiana admitted that there were “a lot of things” he didn’t know about running a business.
Therefore, Indiana attributes part of Bella’s success to the diverse backgrounds and experiences of its co-founders.
Indiana, who has a background in the creative industry, leads the branding and marketing — while his brother and president, Christopher Madiam, who studied computers, brings technical knowledge to the table.
John Rasjid, CEO of Social Bella, has a background in finance.
“Having my two co-founders was really important to me, we support each other and we have a really great dynamic.”
According to her, her brother Madiam, who was a role model for Indiana from a young age, was a special source of strength.
“He always pushes me to grow, learn and take on challenges with an open mind and a positive attitude,” she said.
“It’s easier to tell people the good things they want to hear, but Chris has always been honest with me. And that’s the one thing I’m most grateful for.”
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