Highlander Outdoor boss looks forward after winning Olympic contract
With a flick of a switch the show room lights up.
Baram Golzari smiles as the vast array of outdoor products his company produces are brought into sharp focus.
At the back of the long room past the boots, back packs, jackets, sleeping bags, socks, gloves and tents is an exciting new venture for Highlander Outdoor.
Towards the end of 2010 the Livingston company learned it had successfully become an official licensee of London Olympics merchandise.
The near two years spent on the tendering process are now translating into a range of bags, wallets and outdoor accessories which are on display in the West Lothian warehouse.
Golzari said: "There were many, many stages and we had to provide a lot of information and detail about the company.
"There were a few companies fighting for the same license and I was delighted we managed to do it but it wasn't easy to get.
"It was a great opportunity for us and Scottish Enterprise encouraged us to go for it but initially we thought we had no chance as there were much bigger companies.
"A lot of credit is due to my son Ramin who is the sales director as he worked very hard on this."
Along with the 2012 deal Highlander also secured licenses to use previous Olympic logos.
These are now being seen on a range of fashionable messenger and canvas bags.
Golzari admits this is opening doors to new markets and customers.
He said: "We have been encouraged to develop a new type of product which is outside the core of what we do and there has been a huge amount of interest in those items.
"Certainly beyond 2012 we will keep producing those products. It has also opened many doors for us by opening up markets and customers which otherwise would have been very difficult to do business with.
"Normally trying to open the can with big customers is very difficult but we are now talking with major multiple retailers all over the country."
However Golzari recognises the hard work around the Olympics contract is only just beginning.
Part of that has involved opening up an overdraft with the bank for the first time in over a decade to give the business a cushion to finance the new product range.
He said: "At the end of the day it is good to have these licences but we have to generate enough cash for the Olympics and enough profit for us.
"So although we have the licenses the challenge is not really finished yet."
Golzari's office is dotted with pictures of the outdoors and a large map of Scotland.
Even without those pointers it wouldn't take long to realise the outdoors is his passion.
Indeed he loves nothing more than testing Highlander products while out on the Scottish hills.
He said: "Every product you see I have been involved with even though we have a design team of six constantly updating things.
"I've always been interested in product development and even now as the managing director that continues."
That passion was one of the reasons he set up the business in the first place.
He said: "I was in charge of the Edinburgh University climbing club and I used to visit stores to buy gear for the club.
"I ended up buying the Leith Army and Navy store which I bought the gear from when it went into liquidation.
"We felt there were lots of good products out there but they were too expensive and the cheaper products were not up to the standard required on the hills.
"So the plan with Highlander was to have the quality at a price level everyone could afford.
We don't build products for expeditions. Weekend hillwalking and camping is our market and that has been a growing a lot for the past six or seven years."
From that start in Leith more than 20 years ago the company now makes 1200 products, exports to 15 countries and has a subsidiary business in China.
Golzari has steadily built up his international connections through visiting trade fairs and building contacts.
It was through that network he first managed to get into China to manufacture products 17 years ago.
Even though Highlander were too small to make bespoke products for a contact agreed to process orders as long as the colour schemes were the same as larger customers.
He said: "The Chinese trading companies needed very large minimum quantities which was a problem for a small company like ours.
"We knew we couldn't afford to manufacture in the UK or Europe so we kept trying and trying to work with China.
"Eventually we worked out a way to make tents. As long as our colour range was the same as other larger customers the trading company would accommodate us.
"I remember sitting in a hotel till one am in the morning designing a back pack with my contact going over all the colours they had.
"We ended up giving him a small investment to start on his own and now he has 2,000 people working for him and his own factory.
"So it worked well for both of us."
While exports Germany is the largest outdoors market in the world are growing the market in the UK is going through big changes.
Depressed consumer spending and the general trading difficulties on the high street have had an impact on many of Highlander's customers.
Golzari said: "Traditionally our company has been a supporter and supplier of small independent businesses.
"Unfortunately they are getting squeezed by the larger multiples so we have to change direction so we can continue supporting those smaller customers."
With 20 per cent growth in most recent years Highlander is clearly doing something right.
Golzari said: "To protect ourselves from seasonal products like camping we have the full range of military and security products which continues through the year.
"We also have a range of winter accessories and clothing which sees us through those months."
Still Golzari is not complacent.
With both sons in the company he is beginning to move Highlander towards a different structure to safeguard it for the next generation.
He said: "We're employing people with different expertise in areas like finance and marketing to help move us forward.
"It's very easy for a business in our position to run into cash flow problems as we are basically financing our customers.
"They get credit from us and on average they get 60 days to pay. At the same time we might have to pay 30 per cent of the cost of production in advance to our suppliers.
"We then pay full amounts including the VAT, duty and freight before we even see the goods. A retail company would generate cash before they pay their suppliers.
"Recently one of our competitors - who were considered to be quite successful - went into administration due to Focus DIY going down.
"We've had growth and profit but we now have to change direction to make it easier for the next generation.
"I realise the way I have been running the business may not necessarily be the best way to take it forward."
Baram Golzari came from Iran to Edinburgh University in 1975 to study fire safety engineering.
Part of his project was looking at oil fires and he turned down a job with the Red Adair organisation as his wife was still finishing her studies.
He began a PhD in the mechanical engineering department but admits his heart was not really in it.
At the same time he was president of the university climbing club and bought kit for the club from the Leith Army and Navy store.
When that business went into administration Golzari made an offer to take it over in 1985.
Not long after Highlander was formed with fellow outdoor enthusiast Allan Blacklock.
Gradually the business began moving away from military products into more general outdoors wear.
The company moved to an 80,000 square feet warehouse in Livingston in 2005 and now produces more than 1200 products for1,600 retailers across 15 countries.
The original retail store in Leith is still run by Golzari's wife Atie as a separate business.
Golzari spends his spare time in the outdoors with hillwalking and skiing among his favourite activities.
He has two sons and lives in Edinburgh.