Our Stories: Jackie Smith

Written by Linda Rose.

Jackie Smith bw namedNearly 25 years ago Jackie and her husband David opened the first Caci beauty therapy clinic in New Zealand – now there are nearly 50 franchised clinics throughout the country. Last year the Smiths started their global expansion with three Skinsmiths clinics in London and, true to ambitious form, they plan to have 40 Skinsmiths clinics in the UK by early 2019.

“The aesthetic sector can be a real tangle for consumers,” says Jackie. “How to find ‘what is right for me’ in retail skin treatments and products is complicated and so some women opt out. We see an opportunity to provide simplicity.” The Smiths also know who their target customer is. “She is 42-years old with a partner and two kids as well as a full-time job. She has a lot of balls in the air but she also wants good skin.”

So where did it all start? Jackie is a Waikato girl born and bred and was part of the first intake of student nurses at what was then the Auckland Technical Institute. In the mid 80s Jackie and husband David decided it was time to try out the Northern hemisphere, specifically Jersey in the Channel Islands.

Once there Jackie analysed her translatable nursing skills as priority setting, relationship-building and time management – perfect for a job managing a team of 20 computer engineers. As she says: “Nurses are very good at ‘getting things done’ but this was induction by fire into people management or what we now call Deep End Therapy.”

The Smiths worked in Jersey for seven years but decided to return home to New Zealand when their son James was a three-year -old. They had been looking for a business idea so they took back a Caci facial toning machine which they had spotted while in the UK but which was new to kiwis.

They set up their first Caci clinic in Newmarket in 1994 and, looking to provide more treatments, became the one of the first clinics worldwide to offer laser hair removal. The new treatments took off among Auckland women and the Smiths decided to franchise their successful formula. Their daughter Madeleine was born around this time and she grew up with the brand, working as a weekend receptionist while still at school.

Now, Jackie says proudly, the Caci brand has 84% brand recognition in New Zealand and they are adding a brand designed to be international, the Skinsmiths clinic. They took three years to build the Skinsmiths product range and have opened clinics in Belgravia, Putney Bridge and Hanwell offering laser hair removal, a skin health plan (a programme of regular skin conditioning which will also address specific concerns such as texture, pigmentation or wrinkles) and cosmetic injectables (such as muscles relaxants and dermal fillers).

Jackie says their unique model is the delivery of treatments through a membership programme. In the initial consultation the treatment advisor sets out how many treatments are required, how regularly the client will need to visit the clinic and how much the programme will cost. The client can sign up to a payment plan to cover the course of treatments. If an additional treatment, beyond the agreed programme, is then required, the clinic will cover the cost.

This membership programme model came about when Jackie analysed client figures from New Zealand and discovered that most clients discontinued their treatment programme after three or four visits. “Most women fell off their treatment plan because life got in the way. Suddenly the household budget had to cover new braces or new tyres so they put off their next treatment and then never got around to starting again. But by not finishing the course, they wasted the money they had spent so far.”

Jackie likens this to the ‘burnt chop syndrome’ where most women put themselves last, serving the rest of the family the nicely cooked chops and eating the burnt one themselves. She believes that the membership programme, where women know the exact cost of the full course of treatments and have a year’s worth of treatment bookings mapped out for them, means that women only have to make a value decision (‘am I worth it?’) once instead of before each treatment.

The Smith’s current venture has been a family affair. Jackie says her strengths are people management and high-level strategy while husband David is a maverick and a creative thinker interested in mergers and acquisitions and problem solving. Daughter Madeleine has been involved in product development while her older brother James, a psychologist, has been providing behavioural insights while they have been in the start-up mode.

“We are very team-focussed and look at how to get people to work together. We also want to keep our kiwi value set of fairness, openness and approachability. Many women think the services we offer are exclusive but we are thinking inclusive. We want any woman to be able to walk into one of our clinics and ask questions about how we work and what we do.

“If you are happy in your skin, then you don’t even think about it but if your skin bothers you, then it really bothers you. We want to offer skin confidence.”

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