In the early days of running her niche market clothing company, Sunday Afternoons, Angeline Lacy learned to get by on her own on a shoestring budget.

In the early days of running her niche market clothing company, Sunday Afternoons, Angeline Lacy learned to get by on her own on a shoestring budget.

As her business grew, however, the Talent hat manufacturer needed cash for capital improvements and a larger staff.

"If you are going to grow a business, you're going to have to borrow money," says Lacy, "Relationships with bankers and lending companies are really important."

Lending institutions have capitalized on the growth of women's entrepreneurship, promoting resources that weren't necessarily there a decade or two ago.

Oregon ranks 10th in the nation in percent of women-owned businesses, according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data. In 2002, roughly 30 percent of Oregon's businesses were owned by women. In Jackson County, women's ownership is estimated at 1 in 4. Government figures showed there were 88,317 women-owned businesses — approximately 13,500 with employees — in the state, with 83,054 employees earning $1.87 billion in wages.

KeyBank has positioned itself in recent years to chase after the business that lenders often passed up or ignored a few years ago.

Key4Women, a lending and educational program, works with businesswomen from start-up entrepreneurs to companies with $20 million in revenue and beyond. As of March 7, KeyBank had loaned out $118 million to Key4Women clients between Eugene and the California border.

"Women-owned businesses have been a growth segment nationwide," says Kathryn Bruebaker of KeyBank. "The thrust has been more on counseling and not just limited to lending."

Cleveland-based KeyBank said recently that it has lent more than $1 billion in capital to qualified women-owned businesses since 2005, beating its February 2008 goal by nearly a year. It has pledged another $2 billion in capital for women-owned businesses during the next five years.

San Francisco-based Wells Fargo bank says it plans to lend $20 billion to qualified women-owned businesses during a 10-year period that began nearly four years ago.

That kind of availability allows entrepreneurs like Lacy to reach new heights.

Lacy has been in business for 17 years, beginning in her living room. Four years ago she bought the old firehouse on South Pacific Highway where about 20 employees produce clothing found in REI and other outdoor and travel stores as well as mail order catalogs.

"In manufacturing there are seasons," Lacy says. "Half of the year, you're making money and the other half, you're spending all your money. We were a typical small businesses, where people start in the bedroom or den and then in three or four years they are in the garage. Pretty soon you overwhelm the house and rent a storage unit; it takes a number of years to get out of the mom-and-pop stage."

For many years the "pop" was important to such businesses, even when mom was the prime mover.

David Tally of The Business Center, and a former counselor with the defunct Southern Oregon Women's Access to Credit (SOWAC), notes Congress long ago banned discrimination by lending institutions. Attitudes, however, aren't so easily legislated out of existence.

"A lot of banks don't like lending money to women's start-ups," Tally says. "They'll say come see me in a year or two when they can see your track record and profit-and-loss statements. They want to make a calculated risk and want to see the business is progressing."

Julie King, a doctor at Medford Women's Clinic, and dentist Karla Rothsus relied on KeyBank's counseling and line of credit to launch Meridian Medispa on State Street in southeast Medford last December.

"We had started doing some treatments here at the clinic," King says. "We got advice on what kind of lease and what sort of equipment we needed."

They settled on a $200,000 line of credit, which easily covered the $30,000 start-up costs at the spa where clients receive laser skin treatments, as well as facials waxing and hair removal services.

"It gave us something to pay the bills while we were starting and not profitable for the first few months," King says.

Sorting out credit lines and other loan possibilities was a drawing card for the two medical professionals.

"We went over all of options whether to go with a line of credit or a complete loan and were put in contact with similar businesses," Rothsus says. "We won't have to think about talking to the bank again; we can just send in for the amount we need or send in the bill."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or at business@mailtribune.com