By Margot Butcher - Republished from Outright #54
What do fly fishing and cricket have in common? What about hockey and dress hire? Agriculture, farms and art? The answer to all three stumpers is Molly Loe.
With two side hustles on the go and two team sports to play and train for, spare time is at a premium for the multi-talented Otago Sparks seamer, but you’ll be impressed at just how well the 20-year-old utilises that time as she packs all of this in around student life as a Lincoln Uni Bachelor of Agriculture undergrad.
The side hustles? The latest is the purchase of a small frock-hire business, Her Designer Rentals (www.herdesignerrentals.co.nz). “I’d rented dresses for formals myself,” explains Loe, “and when this opportunity came up (in March) I was thinking about how I was in an area that had a lot of schools, as well as the university. It was a good opportunity to get into that market.”
In the short time since, picked up some financial skills, honed her customer service and got a booking website up and running — peak organisation and communication required to work the business successfully around Uni hours.
It’s not her first foray into side-hustling, because that’s on top of an arty passion project that started when her mum wondered if Loe might like to do an original painting for Molly’s fly-fisher brother, for his birthday.
Family getaways on Lake Benmore, in Canterbury’s Waitaki Valley, where the trout fishing and water-skiing is good, are something of a tradition for the Loes, while art was a subject Loe had relished at high school — for a time.
“I’d ended up quitting the subject after Year 11 because two art teachers had taken their lives within a year of each other, which was pretty tough for everyone,” she says. “But when Mum saw the [fly-fishing] painting I had done, she said, ‘You know, you’re silly not to be doing something with this…’”
That’s how Made By Molly started. She sent her first collection of acrylic paintings of fishing flies (fancy, feathery, colourful lures, with names like Blue Bandit, Peacock and Firework) off to Dunedin to be printed on fine matte art stock, then started selling the prints and cards on a bespoke Instagram page, Facebook and at the Oamaru markets — tag-teaming with her mum to run the stall, as summer weekends often see Molly on a cricket field.
“I think art is one of those things where you’ve got to be passionate about what you’re painting,” she says.
“I’ve found painting a subject that I’m not that interested in can feel pretty gruelling, but when it’s something that resonates — you’re away. So now I’ve started on a collection of paintings based around agriculture and farming, that’s been in my family since before I was born and I’m quite passionate about.”
Born in Christchurch, Loe’s stock agent dad hails from North Canterbury and mum from the picture-perfect countryside of Mount Nessing, Albury, in the farmed foothills behind Timaru. It was a childhood full of pet lambs, calves, quad bikes. Later, the family moved to a lifestyle block in Oamaru, across the border in North Otago.
“I was always wanting to help out on the farm when we were back at Albury. I was always wanting to go out on the quad bikes. When Dad became a stock agent, I’d go with him to cattle yards, and in holidays I’d be working on farms. So I think I’ve always known I wanted to do something in Ag.
“I wasn’t really as interested in anything else as a career, although I did contemplate a sports course. But then I thought, with playing hockey and cricket as well, I’d probably get sick of it, whereas being on a farm is an escape. The Ag degree I’m doing gives me a nice balance with playing my sport.”
Doing what she loves “gives me energy”, which is handy when you turn the lens on how much she’s achieving on hockey and cricket fields. She’s serious about both, but missed last year’s hockey season after a slipped disc in her back. Now she’s back playing club hockey for Hornby in Christchurch in the Canterbury Premier League.
As a pace bowler, the back injury was a double worry, but she got back on the park in time to contribute to the Otago Sparks’ twin campaigns last summer, returning her best Hallyburton Johnstone Shield season yet, and bringing her Super Smash tally to 16 wickets from three seasons.
When Loe debuted in the one-day format five years ago, she was the second-youngest player in the Sparks’ history — one of a cohort of St Hilda’s Collegiate first XI girls who won the national Gillette Venus Cup in 2018. That hard-working group now forms the youthful core of the Sparks: Olivia Gain, Eden Carson, Emma Black and Chloe Deerness were all in the team, coached by the legend Neil Rosenberg whose passion inspired them all.
The winning didn’t start there. In 2016, at Oamaru’s Weston Primary, she’d been part of the first North Otago team to qualify for NZC’s (now discontinued) Primary School Shield nationals.
“I started cricket when I was in Year 6 there, and we only just managed to get a team together for Finals so it was pretty cool. That was pretty exciting, and what sparked my passion to want to continue. I just fell in love with the sport as I carried on through rep teams.”
What followed was a giddy rise. She leapt from the primary school national title straight into the St Hilda’s first XI, to Otago Under 21 and the Sparks all in the space of three years. It’s “crazy” to look back, she says, and she was nervous on Sparks debut — brought in for away one-dayers in Palmerston North at the tail of 2018/19.
“I didn’t have family and friends supporting me on the sidelines — I hadn’t played outside of Otago before, apart from a few Christchurch tournaments. I was still only in Year 10 at school. But the Sparks are like a sisterhood, and that day that I debuted, I just knew all the girls were backing me and knew I could do my role, and I think that gave me a bit of clarity through the nerves.”
She got Jess Watkin early, on a tough weekend for the Sparks team.
Loe’s carried on racking up a cool list of “firsts”. In early 2021, she was picked for NZC’s first ever female New Zealand Under 19 team, and in October 2021, as a newly contracted Spark, was the first female player invited to represent the country-based Willows club, playing alongside Josh Finnie, Max Chu and Richie McCaw.
“That was special and a very surreal experience. I got a couple of wickets, which was exciting too. We were playing Otago Boys’ High, and I knew quite a few of the players — I’m good friends with Jacob Cumming through cricket, so there was a bit of banter!”
Now Loe’s gearing up for a new summer — one that, again, will take a bit of juggling as she pursues all her passions. The Ag degree requires students to do 14 weeks’ practical work on a farm. Last summer’s placement was on a Waimate dairy farm — a two-hour drive from Uni Oval.
“So every Tuesday I’d drive down from there for the main Sparks train
ing, then I’d drive back, and come back down on Friday, travel and play, and be back on the far
m on Sunday! It was pretty hectic, but all part of getting to where you want to be, doing what you love.”