Caci and Skinsmiths founder Jackie Smith on growing her business and helping other women do the same

20 March 2024
By Fashion Quarterly

Entrepreneur Jackie Smith shares her incredible origin story of how Caci evolved from one clinic to 85 across the country — and everything she's learned along the way.

Jackie Smith captured by Stephen Tilley.

I’ve never really thought of Caci as a beauty company. Beauty is such a loaded word, with a lot of judgement attached to it. Over the years, I’ve come to understand that humans have a fundamental need to look their best. It is ingrained deep within our psyche. This is particularly true for women. Some of that is a social construct and some is driven by nature. Because it is largely associated with women, beauty and the beauty industry have been trivialised, and made to seem superficial. Somehow, men spending money on fishing, for example, is considered more legitimate than women spending money on how they look.

Consequently, I think of our industry as the aesthetics industry. Our job at Caci is to help our customers find their own confidence in the way that they look. It is very personal, and everyone has a different need. That feeling, that need is not a superficial or trivial thing. I started my working career as a registered nurse, working in breast cancer research and the emergency department. In the late 1980s David [husband and Caci co-founder] and I took a trip and ended up living on the island of Jersey in the Channel Islands. I wasn’t registered to work as a nurse there, so I moved into the business world. Nursing teaches so many transferable skills, so it wasn’t surprising that I found myself managing a team of computer engineers. We stayed on Jersey for nearly seven years, before returning to New Zealand with our baby son in 1994. Knowing we were heading home and that both David and I enjoyed working in business, we had been on the lookout for business ideas. We came back to New Zealand with a piece of facial-toning technology called the computer-aided cosmetology instrument (CACI). That was the beginning of Caci.

What started as an idea to make a living, became a movement. We helped start and shape the aesthetics industry in New Zealand. At Caci, we had the first commercially available lasers for hair removal in the world. David was up in the middle of the night with our three-month-old daughter when he saw a UK science programme about them and knew instantly there would be a huge demand for permanent hair removal. The next day, he was in touch with the professor in Wales who had done the research. A couple of months later, we had our first laser operating in the Newmarket clinic.

Caci has gone from one clinic to 85, from Kerikeri to Invercargill. A lot of people don’t realise that business ideas are really just seeds. And fragile ones at that! Only a few survive to be “trees”, or fully fledged businesses. It takes persistence, courage, tears and a lot of nurturing and care for the seed of a commercial idea to turn into something substantial. Lots of people have a good idea when it comes to business, but not the persistence or inclination to make the sacrifices that are needed to get that idea to fruition.

I didn’t realise it at the beginning, but starting a business is like having a problematic child. You can’t just stop and say, “I don’t like this anymore.” Very quickly you have other people who depend on you for work, and customer expectations to fulfil. Everything we made went back into building our business. Our children often felt that the business came first, and they would get quite cross with us talking about business at home.

In the beginning, there was classical beauty therapy (facials etc) or surgical face lifts, and nothing in between. We were the first in that space in the middle, but now there is an overwhelming (and often deliberately confusing) array of skin and aesthetic options for consumers to choose from. The Caci team is constantly evaluating and filtering new services and products that come to market. So many are just another version of the same thing, and the differences are minimal. One of the things we are best at, at Caci, is to take a new piece of technology or a treatment option and make it customer-friendly, so that they get the very best results.

Small business is the backbone of the New Zealand economy. It is tough to run a small business. You have to be across so many different aspects and tasks — customers, employees, financial control, product ordering. The list goes on. At Caci we have over 70 franchisees across 85 clinics taking care of so many New Zealanders, their skin health and skin confidence. Most Caci owners are women who support their families. I like to think that we have provided amazing opportunities for those women to be in business. We’ve come such a long way in 30 years, there’s plenty to celebrate!

Words as told to: Sarah Murray
Photography: Stephen Tilley
Styling: Amberley Colby
Hair & Make-up: Chanelle Aldridge

This article originally appeared in Fashion Quarterly‘s ‘Ambition’ issue. 

Make every day a good skin day with the experts at Caci

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Start your skin care journey with a free consultation and try one of Caci’s most popular Skin treatments for only $99! Book your free consultation at

In the ever-evolving world of entrepreneurship, a wave of power players are seizing the spotlight — women who are not just navigating, but conquering the uncharted territory in their chosen fields. In this series, we get to know nine of them. We ask how they got to where they are, and what challenges, career highlights and sacrifices they faced along the way. From startups to empires, we tell the stories of women who are not just entrepreneurs — they are trailblazers, thinkers, disruptors and dreamers.

Learn more in Fashion Quarterly’s autumn 2024 ‘Ambition’ issue. 

Read next: The skin experts breakdown how to keep skin radiant all summer long


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