Sophie Barnes

Growing up on a farm meant Laura Douglas developed a strong ‘can-do’ mindset from a young age. It is this belief that led Laura to start up “Real Country”, a rural experience business in Kingston, Otago.

Laura first had the idea in 2016 when she quit her corporate career and it has evolved from there. Her latest brainchild, Southern Girls Finishing School is “a cheeky head nod to the old-fashioned finishing schools.

“However rather than teaching girls how to be proper little ladies, I wanted these girls to learn practical skills and understand that they are more capable than they know”.

The one-day workshop for girls over 11 involves tasks from changing a tyre to fencing and even shooting guns. The aim is for them to become more confident in their abilities while surrounded by other girls their age.

“The point is, as a country kid, we have so many opportunities to develop these important life skills that help us become more capable, self-assured adults.”

Without any knowledge on setting up a tourism business, starting up Real Country wasn’t easy.

“Everything was a challenge. I didn’t know how to start a business.” Laura credits her success to her rural upbringing giving her the confidence to tackle whatever came her way.

Real Country now also runs several other courses on the farm, from teaching adults how to fire arrows, crack stock whips and other rural pursuits. With her menagerie of livestock, she also performs farm shows for guests. The success of these core business experiences has allowed Laura to expand her horizons.

“Most recently, a series of Ladies Only Shooting and Duck Hunting Workshops and now the Finishing School, so it’s a very exciting and fulfilling time for me right now!”

The Southern Girl Finishing School will run every school holidays as a one-day workshop. Laura also hopes to run courses for young boys too.