AS a business owner, Claudia Schodde is keen to tap into new markets. Literally.
Ms Schodde, 23, has been running her home-based graphic design business Designs By Claudia for just over a year. She is one of a number of Wimmera residents finding personal and financial value in selling self-made creations.
Drawing has always been an interest of hers, but Ms Schodde, who has a day job as a graphic designer in Horsham, turned the hobby into another occupation last June after purchasing and illustrations on her a smart tablet.
"I just got addicted really," she said.
"People started liking my things so I thought 'Ok I might as well give this market thing a go'. So I started making a calendar and that was really successful."
"I do a lot of greeting cards and postcards, and I'm looking at doing some fabric printing, but I haven't got to the bottom of that yet because I work full time, it's a bit hard to juggle some times."
Ms Schodde, who grew up in Murtoa, said she received most of her business through direct requests on social media and at the stalls she had taken out at markets in Horsham and Natimuk.
"It's exciting to find out new markets, there are still some I haven't gone to," she said.
"I feel like a lot of people want to see and attend markets... like they don't see much of this so they get a bit excited about it.
"The makers market a few weeks ago had about 85 stalls, and the people who follow me knew I was going to be there but they would also have seen others. I'm good friends with Cheree at Bake Crush, who sells biscuits and slices, so you've just got a big variety and that's what pushes people to go there instead of shop online."
Ms Schodde said having to fit the business in around her day job required a significant time commitment, but the extra money and confidence boost made it worthwhile.
"If someone else sees it and they say 'that's really good' you get that extra boost," she said. "I don't know what I would do if I didn't have this on the side, it keeps that flow going."
Ms Schodde said a long-term goal of hers was to work from home, another being to make her home-based business more stable.
Time commitment is something Sharon McDonald, for Horsham-based enterprise Farmhouse Soaps, appreciates too.
A business manager at Horsham Hydraulics by day, it's not unusual for Mrs McDonald to spend several hours a day pouring soaps, lotions and face creams into their bottles by hand.
"Everything's made by hand and it's small batches. As much as I would like some equipment that would do it all for me I'm not at that stage yet," she said.
Mrs McDonald took over the business from a friend four years ago. Since that time, she said she had noticed a growth in Wimmera residents looking to buy products made in their area and that leave minimal waste.
"They buy soap because they don't want to use plastic packaging, and I've moved away from using plastic containers for the lotion," she said. "I think that's part of the reason (the business) is growing."
Mrs McDonald also sources the raw materials for her products from within the region: All of her items are made from oil from Grampians Olive Oil in Laharum, which in turn sells the soaps she creates.
Mrs McDonald said she had also benefited from "Buy from the Bush", a social media campaign started earlier this year encouraging people to buy from businesses in regional Australia, particularly those affected by drought.
"A lot of people have gotten in contact with me through facebook page," she said. "I've had to pretty much shut down the website because it's almost all filled out."
Social media has also been a key vehicle for Abby Sleep, who for the past 18 months has been building her artwork business Pieces by Abby.
While studying a psychology degree at Geelong's Deakin University, the 21-year-old uses space in her share house to make paintings and resin-dipped cheeseboards and side tables.
"I have a compromise with my housemates that I work in the garage," she said.
"I feel with social media and Instagram, it's a lot easier for people to connect and get in touch looking for products.
"Being transparent and approachable is also key. If people can see how you make your products and who you really are and you genuinely care about your little business, they're going to support you in that."
Ms Sleep also hosts social painting workshops and teaches resin classes in Warracknabeal.
She said working from home was more cost-effective way of starting out.
"Especially for people who can't dig too deep into funds to lease out a shopfront and don't have as much support at the beginning when they're launching it," she said.
"Warracknabeal has just bloomed with small businesses - home-based and a couple of shopfronts - but it's not a competitive thing, everyone is lifting each other up and really wants everyone else to succeed."