She built a startup that raised millions, shares 3 tips

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

Starting a startup without any professional experience can be challenging.

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

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

The Indonesian beauty and personal care retailer has raised about $225 million since 2018, and has drawn an impressive list of investors that includes Eastern Ventures, Jungle Ventures and Temasek.

The business started in 2015 as an e-commerce platform called Sociola, but has since expanded to 48 stores in Indonesia and 13 in Vietnam.

Indiana tells CNBC Make It how she turned her startup into a million dollar beauty company.

1. Be nimble

When running a business, being adaptable to change is paramount, Indiana said, especially when you least expect it.

Like all businesses around the world, Indiana had to navigate the Covid pandemic, which coincided with her company’s fifth anniversary, she said.

“We were very excited about 2020 … we planned a lot of campaigns and events, and then the pandemic hit. It was quite a shock,” Indiana added.

“There was a lockout and the mood was very different. Not only for the customers, but also for the team.”

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“You have nothing to lose, that’s actually the advantage of starting young,” said Crisanti Indiana, who started her startup Social Bella at age 24.

As chief marketing officer, Indiana led a rapid change of direction by pivoting to online events “at a very confusing time” and shifting her focus from home makeup to self-care.

“It was a steep learning curve because you also need to manage the team, making sure everyone is OK and letting them know we can get through this together,” Indiana said.

“It’s about making sure you’re agile enough to go through dynamic changes.”

2. Do what is right

The idea for Sociolla came in 2015, when Indiana discovered the online proliferation of counterfeit makeup products in Indonesia.

Those products were sometimes sold for “a fraction” of the original price, she said.

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

“Since we started … we make sure that we only work with authorized distributors or brand owners.”

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.

Crescent Indiana

Co-founder and CMO, Social Bella

But that approach wasn’t easy, especially when awareness about the authenticity of beauty products was low at the time, Indiana said.

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“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,” she added.

“It was really a challenge to educate consumers that cheaper doesn’t always mean better.”

But that strategy seems to have paid off. Social time is now According to Indiana, more than 30 million users across all its business units, selling an inventory of 12,000 products from 400 brands worldwide.

Social started as an e-commerce platform called Bella Sociola. It has since expanded to 47 stores in Indonesia and 16 stores in Vietnam.

The business has also caught the eye of investors – its latest round of fundraising 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 to today.”

3. Choose the right leaders

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

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So Indiana attributes Social Bella’s success to the diverse backgrounds and expertise of its co-founders.

Indiana, who has a background in the creative industries, leads branding and marketing – while her brother and chairman Christopher Madiam, who studied computing, brings technical knowledge to the table.

John Rasjid, CEO of SocialBella, has a background in finance.

Social Bella was founded in 2015 by Crescenti Indiana, her brother and President Christopher Madiam (left) and CEO John Rasjid (right).

Social times

“Having my two co-founders has been really important to me, we support each other and we have a really great dynamic.”

Her brother Medium, who has been a role model for Indiana since she was young, is 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’s easy to tell people the nice things they want to hear, but Chris has always been honest with me. And that’s one thing I’m very grateful for.”

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