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Simone Ludlow and Erika Veh had been talking about starting a business for years. It turns out, the middle of a pandemic was the perfect time to bring colour and happiness into the homes of Canadians.

In a year fraught with uncertainty and anxiety, Canadians have needed some levity. Combine that need with more time spent at home, and the colourful, whimsical “couch candy” created by Simone Ludlow and Erika Veh have provided the splash of joy and comfort Canadian homes have been craving.

Ludlow & Veh creates sustainably sourced, locally made, happy pieces for the home. The creative duo buys remnant bits and ends of fabric to piece together truly unique cushions that are subsequently named and given a backstory. They’re not just cushions – they’re characters designed with love, care, and material that would have otherwise gone to the landfill. It’s like putting a puzzle together, with a wonderful outcome. “We use end of the roll pieces and vintage fabric to create something that is timeless and elegant for the home,” says Ludlow.

Launching their business during COVID

There’s always a lot to think about when starting a business. Add a global pandemic into the mix and a whole slew of complexities emerge. But the pair had been thinking about this for too long to let COVID-19 get in the way of their dream.

“Our backgrounds helped us get to this point,” explains Veh of their origin story. Over the years, Ludlow had worked in TV production as well as the auction business. Veh, meanwhile, had a successful career in real estate, did interior design work, and styled TV sets. They would often comment there was so much “stuff” being produced – fast-fashion for the home that lacked heart and quality. A few years ago, they each felt their current positions had their course and wanted to do something for themselves. That’s when they sat down, rolled up their sleeves and committed to starting their business.

But when they were ready to go, COVID-19 hit. “We didn’t feel right launching then,” says Veh. “Back in March the world was heavy, people were losing their jobs, it didn’t feel like the right time.” But after a few months, once people were more used to being at home and investing in their spaces, the timing seemed perfect. “With people spending more time at home, and realizing it’s not just a temporary thing, they think ‘why not invest in my space and make it more happy, comfortable and livable.‘”

At the same time, they faced some of the common pandemic-driven challenges faced by other businesses. “We encountered shipping delays and backordered goods – like zippers of all things!” says Ludlow. “However, we source locally and all our cushions are handmade in Toronto, so we were able to continue almost like normal.”

As for the administrative side of opening a business in a pandemic, they were able to work around that too. “We launched literally as everything was shutting down,” explains Veh. “We actually had an appointment booked at the bank, and then COVID struck. It was complicated, but RBC was so great. They proactively reached out to us and found a way to set up our accounts while branches were closed, and they helped us bring our business to where we are now. We were able to launch and make our business official when we wanted.”

And while a brick and mortar shop had been an early dream, once COVID hit they were relieved they hadn’t made that investment. “We always intended to start small, and being online has allowed us to focus our energies on a single outlet, and actually launch at a time when things were shutting down,” explains Ludlow.

As for their cushions, the feedback has been beyond positive.

“We are so humbled with the response. People say that our cushions brighten their moods and make such a difference in their homes. This was always our hope! If we can add more joy and colour and beauty to the world, then we’re happy.”

Keys to a successful partnership

Partnerships can be tricky – especially when you start a business with your best friend. But Ludlow and Veh have figured out to make it work:

  • They put friendship first: Prioritizing their relationship allows them to talk through any difficulties with honesty and empathy.
  • They’re creatively aligned: Both women emphasize that they couldn’t have started this business with anyone else. They often finish each other’s thoughts and sentences and have the same creative vision. When asked how they divide up the work, their answer is: “We don’t. We do everything together. It’s more fun that way.”
  • They started small: By focusing on cushions and launching online only, they have been able to effectively navigate the first few months – and inevitable ups and downs – of their new business.