Tech Goes Couture

What Irene Pedersen, a 1984 graduate of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, lacks in computer savvy, she makes up for in chutzpah. Last year, a mere day after Apple's Steve Jobs announced the introduction of the iPad, an idea struck her: Why not design couture carrying cases for it?

She had studied interior design, and she and her older daughter, Erika, a former educator who was looking for a new career, had already worked on several design projects together. Her younger daughter, Johanna, could help, too, having interned with a handbag designer while studying marketing and design in school. Pedersen knew she also could count on help from several friends and relatives who had expertise with the legal and manufacturing aspects of business.

Thus began Kwahd, a mother-daughter design company specializing in simple, elegant leather iPad clutches in the $200 range.

"If you really want to make something like this, you just go and figure it out and do it," Pedersen says. "I guess that's my attitude. It was the same thing with medical school. I went when I had two kids—8 and 4 years old. My son went to day care and my daughter went to elementary school. I studied at home, and for Saturday classes I would bring them with me. They sat in the lounge and played Pac-man and ate doughnuts."

Next up for Kwahd: a lower-priced case that will fit any tablet, as well as some new additions to the line, including satchels, wine wraps and wrist cuffs. Pedersen hopes to build the company's brand awareness and get some big name stores to catch on. In the meantime, though, she and Erika make time for shopping their products around at boutiques in Princeton, N.J., Philadelphia and New York. "It's a combination of Internet work and old-fashioned going to stores to show them what we do," Pedersen says, adding that response thus far has been "excellent."