Last month, Nicolas Cederström Warchalowski was hired into the role of CEO at Grundéns. Grundéns, is a company renowned for its exceptional line of outerwear and protective apparel tailored to cater to the needs of all anglers and outdoor enthusiasts who navigate the waters and explore the great outdoors. With its roots in a small Swedish town, Grundéns was born out of necessity nearly 100 years ago, initially crafting oilskins to protect North Sea fishermen from the relentless and unforgiving challenges of their profession.
Dedicated to outfitting individuals for the world beyond, we had the privilege of sitting down with Grundéns’ newly appointed CEO, Nicolas Cederström Warchalowski, as well as Ashley Williams, the Vice President of Global Marketing at Grundéns. Join us as we delve into their vision, gain insight into their products, and explore the exciting projects their team is currently engaged in.
Oxley: Nicolas, tell us a little more about yourself.
Cederström Warchalowski: Sure thing, Nelson. I had a pretty sporty upbringing over in Europe. My dad made the jump from Poland to Sweden, and that’s where I spent my childhood. I practically had a go at every sport under the sun, especially with a ski slope right nearby. I started skiing at a super young age. I’ve got two brothers, one older and one younger, and we were out exploring and fishing from a very early age. That was awesome. As my teenage years rolled around, I got hooked on fly fishing, and I’ve been sticking with it ever since. The cool thing is, my job has let me mix business with pleasure, taking the sales teams and participating in various fishing events all over the place.
Skiing and fishing are my passions, but it’s more about soaking up the great outdoors. I’ve hopped around Europe, holding different roles in various industries. First, I was with Procter & Gamble, and then I made the leap to Red Bull. While at Red Bull, I had the chance to live in the U.S., starting at the global headquarters in Austria and then shifting to the U.S. headquarters in Los Angeles. Back then, my kids were still little tots, aged five and seven, when we made the move stateside. Now, they’ve all grown up, and are back in Sweden!
Oxley: It seems you’ve worked in a lot of different industries, can you expand on that?
Cederström Warchalowski: So, over the last 13-14 years, I’ve been knee-deep in the sports and outdoor industry, and lately, I’ve dived headfirst into the world of sport fishing, and let me tell you, I absolutely love it. It’s like I’ve come full circle, back to my roots. What really strikes me is the passion that runs through everyone in this field—customers, retailers, pro staff, you name it, they’re all fired up about what they do. It’s just like the small town I grew up in back in Sweden, where everyone was super active, and that’s exactly where Grundéns fits right now.
Interestingly, the place I grew up in was also near the birthplace of Grundéns. It’s where we’d grab shellfish in the summer, and everything had that unmistakable orange hue. The whole crew has a deep connection, spanning generations. Their loyalty to the brand is unparalleled. This was a huge reason why I wanted to be a part of Grundéns. We take immense pride in Swedish brands that have their roots in Sweden. I’ve been lucky enough to work for Haglöfs and Peak Performance, both Swedish brands that the local community holds dear. And now, as we make our presence known in the U.S. fly fishing scene, I feel like we have a whole bunch of folks back home cheering us on.
So, for me, this really feels like coming home and joining a fantastic brand, all while helping unlock its full potential.
Oxley: Thats awesome Nicolas, how’s everything going with the transition into Grundéns? How long have you been in the states and working at the Grundéns headquarters?
Cederström Warchalowski: Well, I have only been here a couple weeks. I was fortunate enough, it was an all in company week, so we had the full U.S. team here in the headquarters when I started, so we got to do bits of everything. It was so personal, warm, and welcoming I have to say. I feel that we are in a great place. We’re in the fishing mecca of the world, and we have many great fishing companies around us or driving distance from our headquarters.
I’m super excited for the next phase of our global expansion plan, I think Grundéns has been on an amazing journey but we’re only just getting started. You know it from covering Grundéns, but our “We Are Fishing” strategy has helped triple the brand in size over the past few years. The company is now mid 40 million US dollars, which is amazing. That is really a significant presence and it’s been successful not only to nurture and keep growing the commercial fishing market, but also our footwear line, entering into the sport fishing channel, and most recently launching our GORE-TEX Boundary wading collection, and doing it all in an incredibly agile way. I have to say we are a centenarian brand, so we have the wisdom of a centenarian, but the agility of a startup and I think that is really why I like it so much. You feel that. We also have a really experienced team which has helped us drive our entry into new markets like fly fishing. It’s been a dream of mine to return to the U.S. and work here.
Oxley: Moving from Rapala to Grundéns, where do you see Grundéns in the next few years, and what is your focus within the brand itself?
Cederström Warchalowski: Certainly, my primary responsibility here revolves around engaging both the team and management to collaboratively devise a new long-term plan that charts our course for the future. However, there are some common threads worth noting. If I reflect on my past experiences, such as my time at Haglöfs, a brand with a century-long history originating from a small Swedish village, we share a legacy brand identity enriched with profound heritage and wisdom. Like Haglöfs, we at Grundéns stand firmly on a robust foundation, and this is no different from Rapala, a well-established brand renowned for its lures and steeped in legacy within its product segments. I believe that, for Grundéns, this essence is at the core of our mission. It’s about nurturing the strengths we possess and building upon the successes of our “We Are Fishing” strategy.
Our approach moving forward will be a seamless extension of our ongoing commitment to safeguard, nurture, and strengthen our position in the commercial fishing sector. This, in turn, will serve as a robust platform for further investment in new product categories. We’ve ventured into sports fishing footwear and fly fishing with a well-thought-out long-term strategy in place. I’m delighted to report that, having attended recent product meetings, I’m highly impressed with what’s in our development pipeline; it’s incredibly compelling.
Our focus now is on collaborating with our talented product developers to put the finishing touches on these innovations. Additionally, working closely with Ashley’s team, we’ll ensure a successful market introduction, maintaining the same level of credibility we’ve consistently delivered. Our commitment to continued investment and, most importantly, capturing the hearts of dedicated anglers is unwavering. We will uphold our promises, attentively listen to feedback, and continually refine our products, striving for continuous improvement. With each iteration, we aim to drive enthusiasm and passion. In doing so, we are poised to succeed over time, and maintaining our current growth trajectory would be nothing short of remarkable.
Oxley: Do you think you’ll focus more on the fly fishing line, or have an equal balance between commercial fishing and fly fishing product?
Cederström Warchalowski: It’s essential for these two segments to coexist harmoniously, particularly given that they represent a significant portion of our company’s operations. As you rightly pointed out, having a robust and stable foundation allows us the luxury of not rushing product launches, avoiding shortcuts, and steering clear of an overly competitive mindset. Our approach is to prioritize consumer insights and maintain our commitment to research and development.
In our recent product meetings over the last two weeks, one of the most prudent decisions we made was to put a hold on a couple of product releases. These will be deferred for a season or two to allow more time and to gather extensive feedback from both fishermen and our trusted partners. This way, we ensure that when these products do hit the market, they will be perfected to meet the exacting standards of our customers. I think Ashley would like to elaborate on this as well.
Williams: Absolutely, one crucial aspect I’d like to echo alongside Nicolas’s insights is what truly distinguishes Grundéns from other brands within our domain. It’s our unwavering commitment to a holistic and consistent approach in product design and philosophy, regardless of the specific sector in focus. This synergy allows us to glean valuable lessons from our heritage in the commercial fishing industry, which we seamlessly apply to our sport and fly fishing apparel and footwear. Basically, they lean on each other.
For instance, we’ve drawn learnings from the commercial fishing world to address similar challenges in sport fishing, like efficiently channeling water away from the body should it penetrate a zipper. This solution, involving storm flaps and water channeling, has its roots in the commercial fishing industry. Similarly, our design ethos emphasizes clean lines. By eliminating unnecessary pockets, we ensure that they won’t hinder fisherman by catching on nets, a valuable lesson we’ve integrated into fly fishing where extensive lines are often in play when you’re casting or stripping fly line in.
Oxley: Nicolas, you mention when it comes to product design less is more. Can you elaborate on what that means? Is it zippers, is that snag points?
Cederström Warchalowski: There’s no need to inundate our designs with unnecessary bells and whistles or superfluous features. Less equals more, and I believe a lot of brands in the outdoor space have learned this. Specifically, when it comes to fly fishing, we’ve discussed the importance of minimizing snag points. But for me, the key is avoiding overly cluttered designs. I firmly believe that Grundéns stands for a more streamlined approach, focusing on what’s truly essential in our products and ensuring that every element serves a functional purpose. Ash, do you have something?
Williams: Thanks Nicolas. Absolutely, you’ve captured it perfectly. To expand on that point, what truly sets us apart is our steadfast commitment to delivering products that meet the needs of all anglers. We’re dedicated to making products that anglers can trust, 100% of the time, no exceptions. Our DNA is rooted in the development of products for the uncompromising demands of the commercial fishing industry. Out on the Bering Sea, there’s simply no room for compromise. If a zipper fails, there’s no quick trip to the store for a replacement jacket. Whether you’re on a crabbing boat or engaged in any other fishing pursuit, we adhere to the highest possible standards in every product we create, and for-sure it’s a demanding process, but it’s fun!
I want to send a big thank you to Nicolas & Ashley for taking the time for this interview. During the end of our interview, both Nicolas and Ashley elaborated on a few different products coming out for 2024 that are currently in the R&D phase; however, the crew at Grundéns is very excited to share what’s getting released early next year!