Lucy Whittle

Gerry Gropp

Lucy Whittle

For Lucy Whittle, starting a trucking business seems like the obvious move. She owns a truck, given to her by her ex-husband. She knows the industry. She's even driven big rigs. After getting laid off from Comcast while on disability last year, Whittle is tired of losing jobs because of factors out of her control. "Besides," she says grimly, "who's going to hire a 54-year-old woman with a back problem? I'm a liability to employers. But I'm not a liability to myself."

Whittle can't get over a sole hurdle: She needs $15,000 to buy the insurance necessary to put her truck on the road. But her husband's $32,000 salary as pastor of a local church doesn't allow much for saving. And her credit history, by her own admission, is shoddy, making her a poor candidate for a bank loan. Until she can find the money to get started, her 18-wheeler will collect dust in a Fresno truck yard.