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Buddy Valastro, the Cake Boss, in front of his famous bakery

The Valastro family circa 1979, with Buddy sitting on his father’s lap


A Challenging Path to Success

As a boy, Buddy Valastro's dream was to work alongside his father in the family bakery to help make it a household name. But that dream was blown off course on his 17th birthday. That's the day his father, 54, was diagnosed with lung cancer. He died just three weeks later.

Buddy lost his best friend and mentor. And his family lost its breadwinner. Buddy had to drop out of high school to run the family business. That meant 12- to 18-hour workdays, six days a week and overseeing 30 employees. "It was a huge amount of pressure," says Buddy. "And there were many days I didn’t think I could pull it off."

Buddy's situation was made more challenging by the fact that his father didn't have life insurance. "If there had been life insurance, I know things would have been a lot easier. I could have hired more people, worried less and had time to grieve," says Buddy.

Always Have a Backup Plan

Today, Carlo's Bake Shop is a household name. Much of that success is due to meticulous planning. Buddy leaves nothing to chance. A finished cake goes crashing to the floor? It may make for entertaining TV, but Buddy always has a backup plan. He has extra sponge cake and sugar flowers on hand to create something new, just in case.

He feels the same way when it comes to taking care of his wife, Lisa, and their four children. No one expects to die prematurely, but Buddy learned at 17 that it's critical to have a backup plan for your family. Buddy bought life insurance when his first child was born and has increased his coverage as his family and business have grown. "If people depend on you, you have to protect them with life insurance," he says.

Video posted with permission from the nonprofit LIFE Foundation. © LIFE 2012. All rights reserved.