Nicolaj Due, CEO, Danish Endurance

From a career as a business journalist to working in Corporate America to founding a premium sports & outdoor endurance brand, Nicolaj Due’s (CEO, Danish Endurance) journey has been quite remarkable. His passion for the outdoors, pride in Danish heritage, and vision towards building and creating Danish Endurance products have made him one of the most inspiring business leaders of 2022.

“Through Danish Endurance, we want to inspire a state of mind where life in physical and mental balance is not only the key to greater personal endurance, but it’s the key to happiness,” shares Nicolaj.

The Idea Behind the Inception of Danish Endurance

Beginning its journey in 2014, Danish Endurance has quite an exciting basement story. Nicolaj, an all-seasons runner, while training for a marathon, used to experience cold feet and blisters due to the inferior quality of the socks. This prompted his desire to see if he could do things differently when designing endurance products for pampering the feet.

“As with all good start-ups, my brother, Christoffer and I designed our first compression sock in our basement,” reveals Nicolaj. Since then, they’ve grown Danish Endurance into a (full) line of sports & outdoor performance gear. The dedicated brother duo is involved in every detail of the production process—from the product idea itself to its development, design, and manufacturing. Moreover, the products are developed in collaboration with Olympic and outdoor performance athletes and are field-tested and refined for optimal performance under extreme conditions. Likewise, Danish Endurance’s high-quality products are ethically and sustainably manufactured and are available with the most advanced features.

Putting Customers at the Heart of the Business

According to Nicolaj, the conventional fashion and apparel industry used to meet their end customers in brick-and-mortar shops, where they also received positive or negative customer feedback. However, this was very seldom structured and rarely ended with the right decision-makers.

When it comes to Danish Endurance, the company operates online only and has a structured customer feedback strategy in place. This means that Nicolaj and his team get very strong datasets that they study and use for product improvements. Such is their dedication and commitment towards their customer feedback that one of the hiking socks (merino hiking classic sock) from Danish Endurance has been improved more than 15 times. Therefore, putting customers at the heart of the business sets Danish Endurance apart from other market competitors.

“Our mission is to create the best performance socks and underwear in the world,” asserts Nicolaj. “It is an ongoing journey,  we can only reach together with our customers.”

Making Profits from Day One

Since day one, Danish Endurance has had a profitable start, making its founders independent. On several occasions, Nicolaj and his brother have been tempted to fuel their growth even more, but they have resisted the offers. This is so because Nicolaj feels that one needs to build a business model that is resilient in various business environments; otherwise, it is easy to get knocked over by external impact.

Fostering Innovation Through a Diverse Workforce

Danish Endurance is a young, high-growth company with a flat structure and a friendly, dynamic working environment. It has a truly international team of 50 professionals from 22 different nationalities who bring innovative ideas from all over the world. Besides, Nicolaj also tries to inspire creative thinking in his team members and feels that the best ideas do not necessarily come from the leadership team.

Special Milestones

Leaving corporate life and taking the chance as an entrepreneur was a defining moment for Nicolaj. He admits to getting really scared at the beginning of his entrepreneurial journey but having his brother by his side gave him the much-needed comfort and confidence to keep going. Like every aspiring entrepreneur, he also experienced the turmoil and emotions of whether they will make it. Hence, it was a significant milestone for Nicolaj when they saw that Danish Endurance was gaining a lot of momentum and they had successfully created a “real” company.

Changing Directions & Being Adaptable is the Need of the Hour

For Nicolaj, the key to overcoming unexpected challenges is staying agile and staying on top of the data. Having experienced unprecedented times, the terrible war in Ukraine and the COVID-19 pandemic, the Founder of Danish Endurance mentions that strategies and decisions made a few weeks back get knocked out by reality overnight. He has learned from such turbulent times not to be ashamed of changing direction very often. At first, it can seem very unprofessional, but it would be unwise to stick to yesterday’s strategy. Therefore, leaders must be able to gauge the situation in front of them and be agile enough to change directions if needed.

A Day in the Life of a Leader

Nicolaj is a foresighted leader who likes to plan his day ahead. He also works best with relatively few meetings. Calling himself an incubator or firefighter, Nicolaj prefers having enough time to dedicate his focus to attention areas. He is also extraordinarily project-oriented and likes to dive deep into areas that need special attention.

When it comes to unwinding from work, Nicolaj enjoys going out for a long run, exercising, or spending time with his family. “I also have one golden rule, which is to never think about work before going off to sleep,” reveals Nicolaj. When he was younger, he always thought about work before sleeping which adversely affected him. But now, having invested years in mastering this ritual, it works perfectly for him.

Pearls of Wisdom for the Aspiring Leaders

Nicolaj recommends that aspiring leaders never try to make everybody happy as it is an impossible mission. One must always be true to themselves and never try to postpone unpleasant decisions for the future, as they will eventually catch up.

Roadmap for the Future

Nicolaj and his team are working towards creating a comprehensive message for their customers and defining their products’ uniqueness by rightly branding the company.

Moving forward, Nicolaj feels that the year 2023 will be very challenging. Hence, the Danish Endurance team is preparing for a business climate with slow growth and a recession impact. They are also preoccupied with streamlining the business and preparing for an unpleasant storm, so they can continue to be a growing company during tricky times.

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