8 Apr 2022

Tara McKeon is a Proud Poppy from the City of Whittlesea

 Who is Tara McKeon?

Tara is the director of one of the fastest growing fashion businesses in Australia. Her business, Proud Poppy Clothing, is passionate about providing affordable, on trend, inclusive fashion options to women who range from size 6 to 24.

Tara McKeon is a multi-award winning entrepreneur for the following categories in the 2020 AusMumpreneur VIC-TAS Awards:

  • Gold winner – Emerging AusMumpreneur of The Year,
  • Gold winner – Retail Business
  • Gold winner – Customer Service Gold winner – People’s Choice E-Commerce Store.

How was Proud Poppy created?

 Tara McKeon’s first job was at Funfields, Whittlesea’s beloved fun park. She studied nursing at university then extended her qualifications and became an emergency nurse. Tara was on maternity leave after having her first child in 2019 when a personal crisis about her weight and the lack of fashionable clothing available coincided with a brilliant idea that changed her career direction forever.

Tara’s father had been a businessman in the city of Whittlesea and was a great inspiration and role model for her. She’d nursed him through his terminal illness which changed her perspective on life quite dramatically.

“I think losing Dad so young and so quickly really just woke me up to the idea that life’s too short to spend sitting in the corner and not getting out there and enjoying yourself. I’ve spent too much time of my life staying quiet and or missing out. Tomorrow’s not promised so you just really have to get out there and make the most of it,” she says.

Tara had always loved fashion. “I’d work and save up all my money to get beautiful dresses at little stores all over Melbourne. I’ve still got all my dresses from when I was 18 in my wardrobe because I remember how hard I worked for them.”

The idea for an online clothing store came when she was a new mum. “When I was bigger there was never anything that would fit me. It was a hard enough struggle to get out of the house with a baby, but my biggest stress was I would have nothing to wear, so I would just stay home. It was such a cycle and I just felt down about myself.”

“I just thought it wasn’t fair. Once women get to a certain size or even if they’re smaller, there’s just no fashion for them. It has gotten better since I’ve started but even just a few years ago if you were beyond a size 16, forget it. So my maternity leave came to an end and I just said to my husband ‘I’m gonna give this a crack because I’m passionate about this and I think I can do it.’ I got a little bit of my confidence back and I just didn’t want women to feel how I felt for so long.”

Tara had no training in business but her natural aptitude has made her a great success. “I got a few little bits and pieces and got a website made and I just thought it would be a little thing on the side. I never thought I would leave nursing. But there was such a high demand for what I was offering. There was a real gap in the industry.” And soon enough the messages from Tara’s customers started to flood her inbox. Her clothes were helping them, they were thrilled to be able to wear them and go out again, their depression was lifting and they were feeling good about life again. “Helping people know what to wear and knowing they had been people just like me who would just be wearing men’s T-shirts and black clothes but were now wearing beautiful dresses and finding their confidence again; it just really sparked so much joy,” she says.

Tara experienced an element of tall poppy syndrome when she told her friends that she wanted to start a store rather than return to her original career. Instead of supporting her, and being proud of her, Tara felt that people wanted to cut her down. No one had an opinion when she told stories of being in danger from patients in the emergency room or when she was overweight and miserable when doing night shifts, but when she was passionate and excited about her new idea, they were vocal. She decided that instead of a tall poppy, she would be a Proud Poppy.

Since 2019, Tara has created a multi-million dollar business. What started as an online side hustle, has grown to include a boutique store in Doreen and is now an international operation that delivers garments to women all around Australia and as far as South Korea, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, London and Malaysia. Proud Poppy has mapping software that tells them where in the world their customers are logging on to purchase their items. “Our new arrivals go online every Tuesday at eight o’clock Melbourne time. You’ll see all these lights pop up all over the world and these women have set their alarms for these crazy times to jump online at eight o’clock Melbourne time,” Tara says with awe.

 Shop Local at Proud Poppy in Doreen 

Tara says that even though Proud Poppy has grown, she is glad to employ a mostly local team based in the City of Whittlesea and surrounds. “Even though we’re a larger scale business now, it’s just a really nice family within the team,” she says. “We’re great friends and they’re all just as passionate as me in making women feel amazing. So we’re really lucky.”

The Proud Poppy brand values are evident in Tara’s business model and in her staff’s daily practices. “We have pieces for everyone and I want people to feel beautiful. So if we don’t have something for someone on that day we will have something eventually. I never want the girls to push sales. It’s probably a really bad business method. But at the same time, our brand is based on honesty, integrity and just building confidence in women. So that’s never to push something just to make a buck. It’s to teach people to put on a dress and feel good about themselves.”

The women of Whittlesea are so lucky to have access to the Proud Poppy store where they can try on clothes and experience the joy of Proud Poppy for themselves.

Where to find Proud Poppy locally?

Visit the store at 2/95 Hazel Glen Drive, Doreen or purchase online.