Aussie nurse who created sell-out clothing line Proud Poppy for ‘women of every size’ hailed for ‘saving lives‘

Tara took a gamble on a career change four years ago and it’s one that’s paid off in more ways than one.

As a size 26 Tara McKeon was frustrated. She’d always loved fashion; she was used to friends coming to her to ask advice or borrow her dresses but now she couldn’t get into any of those dresses herself.

“I was an emergency nurse working night shifts and I lived off takeaways and party pies for a while,” Tara tells 7Life.

“Then I had kids and although I loved fashion, it didn’t love me anymore.”

But instead of hiding in ugly leggings or covering herself in a tent of black fabric, which seemed to be the only clothes available in her size, Tara decided to do something about it.

“I wanted to create a store full of clothes that women of every size could wear,” Tara says.

“It was selfish in a way as I wanted to find clothes I could wear but, my maternity leave with my son was ending and I knew I had to give it a crack or go back to working nights. I decided, I can do this.”

In August 2019 Proud Poppy was born. The brand name is a take on the Australian Tall Poppy syndrome, which refers to the successful being criticised.

“I didn’t initially get a lot of positivity and with my brand, I wanted to say that people should be proud of those giving it a crack,” Tara says.

Starting by chatting with wholesalers and gathering enough clothes to fill a tub in her hallway, Tara launched her online offering.

“Dresses were my passion,” she says.

“If you put on a beautiful dress you feel good. I didn’t go to my sister’s 21st because I couldn’t find a dress to fit me and I wanted to help other people. The minute you get into the larger sizes the fabric traditionally gets thicker, the prints get uglier and the shades are darker but it doesn’t have to be this way.”

Working with wholesalers, Tara started convincing them to extend their sizing.

“A lot of stock stopped at a size 18 or even a 16. I started pushing and now many go to a 28. I’m trying for a size 32,” Tara says.

As the sizing went up, so did Tara’s customer base. Her social media following grew to the 120,000 customers it is today and she was quickly started adding actual shops to her online offering; three in total, two in Victoria and one in Queensland. She’s even started designing her own ranges.

“Last year we grew 100 per cent year-on-year,” Tara says, adding she was “shocked” by how fast it was happening.

Incredibly, she now receives an order every 2.5 minutes.

“We have 45 staff across two states,” Tara says.

“Some of our ranges can sell out within two minutes. My husband has quit his job in manufacturing to come on board with the business and we are ploughing everything we earn back into it to grow it even further. We’ve worked really hard but I never thought Proud Poppy would get to this scale.”

As well as the financial success, Tara is also discovering a side to the business which is even more rewarding.

“I walked into one of my stores recently and a woman burst into tears. She said, ‘I know you’re not an emergency nurse any more but you saved my life,’” Tara says.

The woman had not been able to find clothes to fit her and had lost all confidence in her body and herself until finding Proud Poppy.

“What we do is beyond a dress,” Tara says.

“Women comes to us and say this all the time. It blows me away.”

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