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Case Study

Liita Cairney

Director, Kalitasha

Mon, 11 January 2016

Liita Iyaloo Cairney is currently completing her PhD in Global Public Health Policy at the University of Edinburgh. She is the Director of Kalitasha; a business developing a widerange of solutions to poverty-related health issues. The company’s first product, Koree, will provide effective menstrual hygiene management.



How Kalitasha got started

Liita carried out work experience with an international development organisation in New York where she spent time learning about adolescent issues. Following this, she began her PhD at the University of Edinburgh. As part of her research,Liita visited her place of birth, Namibia, to collect data in 2012. During the visit, she had a chance meeting with the Prime Minister who directed her away from seeking a Government job. Instead, he inspired her to develop a simple solution which would address an issue of poverty still present in Namibia such as menstruation.

When she returned to Edinburgh, Liita joined a three day training programme for PhD students, run by the university’s entrepreneurship programme, Launch.ed. The attendees were encouraged to look beyond research and explore the potential of entrepreneurship. Liita also attended an SIE CreAction Lab in Edinburgh; a supportive setting where students can work with a group of like-minded peers to move their business ideas forward and understand what they need to do next.

Liita began to combine her research in Namibia along with her knowledge and encouragement from support organisations to create Kalitasha in 2013.


“Even though the idea was very early stage, they helped me develop from ‘what could I possibly do?’ to ‘ok, how do we develop this into a business plan that can get funding’.”Liita Cairney


What happened next

With help from Launch.ed, Liita developed her initial idea further and looked at how to fund the new business. She also applied to Scottish Enterprise and Royal Society of Edinburgh Enterprise Fellowship. Liita was a RSE Fellow from April 2014 through March 2015. The fellowship included monthly training on how to run a business.


“I began to realise that I could work on this full time because I learned so much.I realised that actually I could run a business and it was possible.”Liita Cairney


Liita got back in touch with SIE Business Advisor, Tom McGuire towards the end of her PhD in 2015 for support. Following this, Liita was awarded a grant from the SIE Patent Fund. Her application for the international component of the UK patent for Koree has now been submitted and she continues to work with Tom to progress the business further.


“I’m learning to give myself credit that I’m much more creative that I had been led to believe because as an entrepreneur you have to be thinking about so many different things.”Liita Cairney


Next steps

The business is now picking up momentum as Liita prepares to complete her PhD. Sheis currently undertaking an 18 month grant from Scottish Enterprise to develop the concept of her product further.

Liita is also working to secure an investment deal with an angel syndicate and has received an endorsement from the current 1st Lady of Namibia who will lend her support when the product is market ready.


“I would say that it has given me much greater confidence in my ability to make decisions about the world and my ability to really analyse data and produce something that other people are interested in.”Liita Cairney


Liita continues to engage with SIE, receiving business advisory support as well as being part of the SIE Entrepreneurs Group which offers a series of relevant masterclasses, speaker events and networking opportunities for those who are most committed to developing their businesses.


“I know it’s said often about believing in yourself but more than that, believe in your perception and your ability to analyse the world so you can make a difference.”Liita Cairney