I’m Tara, and I am a travel obsessed, animal adopting, wine and cheese loving mumma to energetic 4 year old Brodie, and sweet 8 month old Charlie and wife to Paul. I have had every job under the sun, from handing out yoghurt samples at the supermarket, selling raffle tickets at the footy, to hospitality gigs in Hamilton Island. 

I also have a postgraduate diploma in critical care nursing and was an emergency night shift nurse before deciding to put full faith in myself and make the leap to launch my own brand with Proud Poppy Clothing. Proud Poppy Clothing, a size inclusive brand that is all about being unapologetically yourself. 

When did you start your business?

Proud Poppy Clothing began in August 2019

What was the inspiration behind starting this business?

As an emergency nurse by trade, I was coming to the end of my maternity leave following the birth of my son Brodie. Pregnancy and life in general had seen me gain over 60kgs weighing around the 140kg mark, squeezing into size 22s and just feeling lost and sad. The cycle of not being able to find beautiful, affordable clothing as my body changed, and being forced to wear whatever fit from stores pushed me more and more into my shell. Not being able to shop in “regular” stores. Avoiding people from my past like the plague. Missing special occasions simply because there was nothing nice to wear that fit. I was miserable. Speaking to some of my petite friends it struck a chord that my size 6 friends were surprisingly in the same position – except being forced to shop in the children’s section. 

It became so clear that a store like Proud Poppy Clothing is exactly what the women of the world needed. An affordable and stylish fashion store that was for ALL women. A store that was welcoming, inclusive and most importantly somewhere that we could all shop together. 

I’ve been a size 8 and I’ve squeezed into a size 22, fluctuating weight is normal – and my message to all women is to embrace it! The value of a store like Proud Poppy in the lives of all women is immeasurable, and I think just what we as a generation needed.

We receive so many messages from women all over Australia, and even some international women, who are just so grateful that they know a place like Proud Poppy exists – a place they know that they can always find something to suit them and their needs. It’s those messages that make all the stress that comes with running a business that makes it all worth it and we wouldn’t change a thing!

What are you most excited about in your business?

It’s hard to list just one thing I’m most excited about but I’d have to say stocking up to a size 28 is right up there as it’s something that I have had my heart set on since Proud Poppy was born! Size inclusivity is at the heart of Proud Poppy, but realistically it should be at the heart of every brand. This shouldn’t be something that we had to fight to achieve, but I am ecstatic that we have achieved it. I fought tooth and nail to make it happen, and am beyond excited to see it expand across our range moving forward. This achievement is significant as I hope it marks the start of all brands, not just us, moving to achieve this too! 

What has been the most challenging thing about starting your business?

I would say the challenges of learning to adapt over the pandemic that most businesses and individuals faced, especially being a Melbourne based business with a bricks and mortar store. We signed the lease for our first store in the midst of Melbourne COVID lockdowns, so we couldn’t even open it – but I believed in it and I believed in creating a space that stocks our full range of sizes, so that woman knew they could walk in and find something that is just right for them. As soon as that lockdown lifted we were open and running. 

At the beginning of the year we also expanded interstate and opened a studio space, office and soon to be store in Burleigh Heads Queensland. The beginning of the year was a busy time for us as a family as we also welcomed our new daughter, Charlie, in January. So this year I’ve been balancing general mum life with my 4 year old son and a baby, travelling back and forth between Melbourne and Queensland, breastfeeding, whilst also continuing to successfully run my business – which I guarantee is no easy feat with a baby who wants to be fed every 2 hours!

What advice would you give to other women thinking about starting a business?

Just jump in fearlessly and give it 100%. Life’s too short to be constantly worried about “should I?”, change that question to a statement and start exclaiming “I should!”. Sure, there will be risks you need to take, fears will be faced and challenges will test you, but if you back yourself and your abilities to the fullest extent you will achieve great things! When things get tough, don’t quit, push through! Not only will you be proud of what you achieve, the pride you feel in yourself for giving it your all is the most important part. 

Why did you enter the AusMumpreneur Awards?

I’ve really enjoyed being a part of the AusMumpreneur community in previous years. However, the previous awards we had entered had been held online due to Covid so when we were nominated this year I knew I had to enter to get a chance to experience that AusMumpreneur community face to face and in real life!

What did you enjoy the most about being part of the awards?

Having the time to sit down and reflect on everything we’ve achieved as a team, as a business and on a personal level is not something I often get the time to do. It was both refreshing and also motivating to really take the time to do that for the submission.

What surprised you most about the awards?

I saw a few more familiar faces at the awards than I expected to and everyone is so friendly! I often feel a bit uncomfortable and awkward when meeting new people and before a big social event like this I always feel a bit anxious. But as soon as I arrived at the AusMumpreneur Awards, I felt really calm and had such a great time! It’s an incredibly inspirational community to be a part of and the energy in the room on awards night was electrifying! 

How did the awards help you in your business?

To be nominated is great but to win an AusMumpreneur Award is very special. It’s really incredible to be recognised for the hard work and dedication of the whole team. Having won a few AusMumpreneur awards have opened up opportunities for us that may not have happened otherwise. It also helps to add credibility to our brand that helps to set us apart in the industry.

What advice would you give to other mums thinking about entering the awards?

Absolutely do it! The whole process is such a great experience. Writing the submission gave us time to reflect on everything we’ve achieved so far and a chance to look ahead towards what’s next for the business. Letting our community know you’ve been nominated and taking them on the awards journey with you is such an exciting thing to do and 

Being a business owner can sometimes be a lonely place but meeting other business owners is such an uplifting experience. I hope to meet you there at the next one!

What has been the best thing about starting your own business?

I started Proud Poppy clothing with a whole lot of nursing knowledge and not a lot of business knowledge so one of the best things about starting my own business has been how much I have learnt along the way!

Aside from that, I am an avid believer in working as hard as I can now, so that I can enjoy and provide the best life later. But that’s not to say I don’t enjoy life now too. Proud Poppy is my baby, but it’s not my favourite baby…my kids are what is most important to me and everything I do, I do it for them.

I am lucky enough to have the most supportive husband Paul, who this year came across from his job to help and work on Proud Poppy with me. Without him, work/life balance would be non-existent! However, having him on board means that we can bring the kids to work when we need to, we can leave on time, I can breathe a little easier knowing that I have his full support but in saying that he really has given me all the love and support from the start, as soon as I said “I think I should open a clothing store” for the first time. 

What’s happening next in your business?

We have so many exciting things coming up; we’re about to open a brand new boutique store in Burleigh Heads, which will be our first interstate store. It’s been a really big project flying my family and team back and forth to shop for and set up the space, organise stock to be sent, hiring and soon-to-be training staff, the logistics of having a store in Queensland when we are predominantly based in Melbourne. We also have our first retreat coming up too. We’re taking 15 women to the Gold Coast for a 3 night getaway with really amazing experiences planned…  and that’s just October!

What are your big plans for the future?

Looking to the future, I want to help as many women as possible – and that is on a global scale! 

While we do have some international orders that come through, we are wanting to expand to have an international website too. We are working with our marketing company, reaching out to international influencers, working with our web developer to get our loyalty program and website updated constantly and more. We are ready for Proud Poppy Clothing to be a household name and not just as a fashion retailer but as a community!

We are also looking forward to expanding into our upcoming formal range. This will provide all women with a beautiful range of formal wear – and I am just so excited!  I know from experience, just how daunting and difficult it is to find formal wear when you don’t fit into the “mould” that traditional retailers expect you to, so having this range is so important to me. 

I would also love to bring manufacturing back to Australia to some degree and have an element of our range designed and made in Australia. I know this can be difficult, but we have achieved so much in so little time, there’s no telling what we can achieve moving forward!

What is your website and/or social media links (eg. Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram)

Social media:

Facebook – https://facebook.com/proudpoppyclothing 

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/proudpoppyclothing/ 

TikTok https://www.tiktok.com/@proudpoppyclothing 

Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/tara-mckeon-788857216