Like many women on the go, Liz Salcedo had problems keeping her phone charged. As the Chicago-based social worker drove around the city meeting with clients, she'd often reach for her phone—only to find its battery drained. “I am terrible about remembering to keep my devices charged,” she tells mental_floss. “I realized, I always carry my bag with me. If I could have a way to charge my phone in my bag, that would be fantastic.”

That kernel of an idea grew into Everpurse, a charging device that is now built into certain models of Kate Spade New York bags. But when Salcedo began, she wasn’t setting out to start a company. “It started just as a personal project,” Salcedo says. “I wasn’t thinking, ‘Wow, can I make this into a company?’ It was just, ‘I want to make the awesomest bag ever for myself.’”

She started by buying a bag she didn’t mind tearing apart, and purchasing parts to create the battery and charging pocket. “I’ve always loved tech, but I'm not an engineer,” she says. “My husband, and he is definitely a hacker, but he didn't know anything about bags. So we kind of hacked it together.”

After about a year of work, Salcedo had a functional prototype, which included both a bag—which had the device, its wiring, and the battery hidden in its lining—and a charging mat capable of wirelessly charging the bag's battery. Salcedo plugged the mat in where she normally set her purse down at night, so she could charge her bag while she slept without actually having to think about it. An interior pocket contained a lightning connector; all she had to do was slip her iPhone into the pocket, as she would normally do, and it would charge. Finally, a dead cell phone on the road was no longer an issue.

It certainly made her own life a lot easier, but Salcedo didn’t realize she was onto something until her friends started asking to borrow the bag—and bringing her their own bags to be outfitted with her device. Those friends became Everpurse’s first customers.

When Salcedo and her husband decided to take the next step and create a company, scaling up was a process of trial and error. “Making sure that it was invisible inside of the bag so the bag looked just like a regular handbag was all really, really important,” Salcedo says. Keeping the system's weight low was key, too (Everpurse weighs only as much as an iPhone). Figuring out manufacturing was an issue: “We had to develop all that methodology ourselves, particularly for integrating tech and textiles,” she says, “because factories either know one, or they know the other.”

After sourcing the components, the Salcedos built the first run of bags by hand. “We made about 3000 ourselves,” Salcedo says, “before we then felt like we knew enough that we could build manufacturing relationships and teach a factory how to do it and take the product to the next level.”

That next level was a partnership with Kate Spade New York, which currently has three styles that contain Everpurse technology (they range in price from $198 to $698). The partnership was a good fit not only because KSNY is “one of the most tech-forward brands,” Salcedo says, but because the company is “all about women on the go living colorful lives, and that really jives with what matters to us.” 

The key to the Everpurse experience, according to Salcedo, is that it revolves around what women do naturally. “There’s no wires or cables to pull out and physically have to plug in and think about connecting,” she says. “You naturally put your phone inside of your bag’s pocket. You naturally put your bag down generally in the same place. Those habits can connect with the tech and, like magic, recharge your phone.”