Business Gateway helps East Lothian GP launch luxury vegan medical bags for women 

Catherine Fernando

A HADDINGTON-based GP and mum of four, has launched a collection of luxury medical bags for women following support from Business Gateway.  

Dr Catherine Fernando, who has been a doctor in Scotland for over two decades, launched IYASU in March 2023, after becoming tired of the predominately masculine products available on the market, despite more and more women entering the world of medicine.  

Determined to replace the stereotypical brown leather doctor briefcase, Dr Fernando began working on the concept for IYASU – which means ‘to heal’ in Japanese – in 2019, focusing on eco-friendly RPET and PU vegan leather bags and backpacks that could offer stylish yet functional alternatives.  

She contacted Business Gateway in 2018 and was offered advice from a local adviser, Steve Newlin. Steve guided Dr Fernando through several of Business Gateway’s start-up services including putting in place a business plan, devising marketing tactics, guidance on a digital strategy, and creating a brand look and feel for IYASU.  

Guided by Business Gateway, Catherine also managed to secure funding from Scottish Enterprise’s By Design grant which allowed her to hire an experienced designer to help her finalise the design of the collection. Catherine offered her expertise throughout, ensuring the bags would fit all the equipment a general practitioner would carry on a day-to-day basis. Additionally, Catherine was also awarded £1000 from the Lacer start up fund. 

Catherine, originally from Comrie, Perthshire, and a graduate of Aberdeen Medical School, launched her first collection of sustainable bags and backpacks earlier this year. Taking inspiration from healthcare pioneers, each of the bags is named after a leading female medical expert, such as The Elizabeth named after Elizabeth Blackwell who was the first woman to qualify as a doctor in the USA. 

Dr Catherine Fernando said: “Business Gateway has been a wonderful help for me to bring my idea for IYASU to life. Having worked in hospitals and general practice for over 20 years my brown leather bag did not reflect my personality and my stethoscope was constantly tangled around the other equipment due to a lack of pockets. I was willing to spend a reasonable amount of money on a work case, but I could not find anything I liked.”  

Steve Newlin, Business Gateway adviser, said: “It has been a joy to watch Catherine take her idea and turn it into a reality with ongoing support and encouragement from Business Gateway. It demonstrates how anyone with an idea and the right mindset can build a great business, and is yet another example of innovation in Scotland, which flourishes with help from the business support network.”  

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