“Real Country is an agritourism business based on a private sheep and cattle station, just 30min south of Queenstown. We offer interactive farm shows, private farm tours, farm skill workshops, and awesome group activities including clay target shooting, archery and stock whip cracking.”
For our international visitors that are seeking a truly unique-to-New-Zealand experience, Real Country ticks that box with ease. We asked Laura Koot, the Founder and go-to girl in the company, a series of questions on how she keeps her business running so successfully.
What is your business’s mission and how do you bring it to life through the daily operations?
“Our mission has always been to showcase the real, rural New Zealand to our guests while also helping them build confidence as they get hands on with a range of farming activities. All our guides are local, and most are real farmers who are passionate about showcasing their way of life. We believe that confidence can be earned by anyone at any stage of their life, and you earn that confidence by having a go at unfamiliar tasks to prove to yourself that just because you haven’t done something before, it doesn’t mean you can't.”
How do you keep your staff engaged and excited to work each day?
“My amazing team at Real Country are told often by me that the business needs them more than they need the business. I appreciate my team, remunerate them well, train them well, and give them plenty of support and encouragement. Most importantly, they have ownership over how they host groups, with a licence to be themselves and share their own personal stories.”
What would you describe as your ingredient for success?
“Understanding that people will not necessarily remember what you did with them, but they will always remember how you made them feel. We are proud to have received only 5-star customer reviews across all platforms, and we do this by ensuring every guest and every group understands how passionate we are about our land and our lifestyle. That they feel like they are part of the experience and our journey.” This appears to be their ingredient to separate Real Country from the herd – to stand out against other operators. “We are real and ourselves. We don’t try and be like anyone else, we are passionate about what we do, and we love to share those passions with our guests.”
How has the media affected your business and customer experiences?
“We have been incredibly fortunate to have received some epic media exposure over the last few years, including appearing on the Sunday TV show, Country Calendar and Jimmy Doherty’s Great NZ Escape. We have been featured in several magazines and newspapers and have over 12,000 followers on Facebook, with over 11,000 on Instagram. Media and social media has been a powerful promotional tool that allows our customers to get a good feel for who we are before they arrive, and then a platform for them to share their photos and stories once they have visited.”
What is your proudest business achievement so far?
“Securing an inclusion contract with Contiki after cold emailing the Operations Manager and surviving the COVID-19 pandemic. Real Country was a labour of love for me for three years before I was able to hire full time staff, and this was made possible by the partnership we developed with Contiki and The Travel Corporation in 2017. The Contiki inclusion contract gave the business a secure income and a platform that allowed me to hire full time staff and grow from. They, and now their sister company AAT Kings, are still our most valuable and treasured partner.”
What positive changes would you like to see in the tourism industry within the next decade?
“More collaboration between tourism businesses. I have tight relationships with BreakOne Clay Target Shooting and Real NZ, who run the infamous Walter Peak Farm Shows based in Queenstown. I was employed as a clay target shooting instructor by Blake at BreakOne when I started Real Country, and he was an amazing mentor to me who not only taught me how to shoot, but to also teach clay target shooting. Blake is still helping me and the business import clay throwers and fix my broken ones - I even hired him last month to help me with our range certification.”
Real Country also works closely with Real NZ - “...both companies could easily be considered our competitors, but I love that we are instead friends and help each other out. How much nicer would it be if we all just worked together and shared ideas, resources and our successes!”
Do you have any advice for young woman wanting to start their own business?
“There is no such thing as the perfect plan. When I launched Real Country, I knew nothing about tourism or starting my own business. I had no farming skills and couldn’t shoot a gun or crack a whip to save myself - so some might think, what ground did I have setting up a business that taught other people how to do these things! Its laughable when I look back, but I was determined, and I slowly set about learning the skills I needed to launch and grow the business. You will never know enough, feel ready enough, have enough money in your bank account, or have the perfect plan. And being honest, none of that matters - the only thing that matters is that you execute. That is the nature of starting anything.”
With a heart of gold and true love for the kiwi-outdoors lifestyle, we highly recommend anyone seeking an experience, workshop or greater understanding on real-country living, to check out this awesome company.