Starting a business without any prior business experience can be daunting.
But that didn’t deter Chrisanti Indiana, who co-founded Social Bella at the age of 24. “You have nothing to lose, which is the advantage of starting young,” Indiana, now 31, told CNBC Make It. Since 2018, the Indonesian beauty and personal care retailer has raised approximately $225 million from a diverse group of investors that includes East Ventures, Jungle Ventures, and Temasek.
In 2015, the company launched Sociolla, an e-commerce platform, but it has since expanded to 48 stores in Indonesia and 13 stores in Vietnam.
1. Be adaptable.
Adapting to change is critical when running a business, according to Indiana, especially when it comes unexpectedly. Indiana, like all businesses around the world, had to deal with the Covid pandemic, which coincided with her company’s fifth anniversary, she explained.
“In 2020, we were very excited… We had a lot of campaigns and events planned when the pandemic struck. Indiana added, “It was quite shocking.” “There was a lockdown, and the atmosphere was very different.” Not only for the customers, but also for the team.”
As chief marketing officer, Indiana quickly led a pivot to online events and shifted the company’s focus from makeup to self-care at home during “a very confusing time.” “It was a steep learning curve because you also have to manage the team, making sure that everyone is OK and letting them know that we can get through this together,” Indiana said.
“It’s about making sure you’re adaptable enough to deal with dynamic changes.”
2. Do the right thing.
Indiana had the idea for Sociolla in 2015, after discovering the online proliferation of counterfeit makeup products in Indonesia. According to her, these products were sometimes selling for “a fraction” of the original price.
Indiana’s solution to the problem was the e-commerce platform, through which consumers can obtain products that are safe, authentic, and certified by Indonesian authorities. “Since our inception… we have made certain that we only work with authorized distributors or brand owners.”
That approach, however, was not easy, especially given the lack of awareness about the authenticity of beauty products at the time, according to Indiana. “When you own a business, you want it to succeed. “However, you also want to ensure that you’re doing the right thing,” she added.
“It was difficult to convince consumers that cheap does not always equal better.” However, that strategy appears to have paid off. According to Indiana, Social Bella now has more than 30 million users across all of its business units and sells 12,000 products from 400 brands worldwide. The company has also piqued the interest of investors, with its most recent round of funding raising $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 the beginning and continue to do so today.”
3. Choose the right leaders
While being a young entrepreneur has never held Indiana back, she admits there are “a lot of things” she doesn’t know about running a business. That is why Indiana attributes some of Social Bella’s success to the diverse backgrounds and expertise of her co-founders.
Indiana, who comes from a creative background, is in charge of branding and marketing, while her brother and president, Christopher Madiam, studied computing and brings technical knowledge to the table. The CEO of Social Bella, John Rasjid, has a financial background. “Having two co-founders has been extremely beneficial to me; we support each other and have a fantastic dynamic.”
Her brother Madiam, who has served as a role model for Indiana since she was a child, has been a particular source of strength for her, she says. “He is always pushing me to grow, learn, and embrace challenges with an open mind and a positive attitude,” she said.
“It’s easier to tell people what they want to hear, but Chris has always been truthful with me.” And it is for this that I am most grateful.”