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This Entrepreneur Overcame Failure, Grief, and Cancer to Start the Business of Her Dreams

Melinda Vetro survived and learned from professional and personal setbacks. Today, her business is thriving. Here's how she made it happen.

For Melinda Vetro, the entrepreneurial journey has been anything but ordinary. Her story begins in 1991 when Vetro and her husband, Zoltan, immigrated to the U.S. from Hungary. They eventually settled in Asheville, North Carolina. Three short years later, the pair had a son and opened a business called Old Europe Pastries. It seemed like everything was coming together for Vetro and her husband.

Melissa Vetro

But business was slow in the early days. "Nobody cared about European desserts in Asheville," Vetro recalls. "They wanted pies, brownies, and cookies."

Even still, Old Europe Pastries pushed on as the years pressed on. Then something unexpected happened: Vetro was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003. It was a scary time for Vetro, who was just 33 years old. Luckily, her cancer quickly went into remission. Things with the business, however, weren't poised for a turnaround.

By 2006, Vetro and her husband attempted to reinvent Old Europe Pastries as a dessert and nightclub business. It seemed like a good idea, but the timing was wrong. "We were hit by the housing crisis," Vetro says. "People cut back on luxuries, including going out for desserts and parties." Like so many other businesses back then, Old Europe Pastries shuttered.

Determination, fear, and heartache.

For many entrepreneurs, a failed business is devastating. Not for Vetro. She was determined to carry on despite the setback. She spent the next several years strategizing how she'd do things bigger and better than before.

In August 2010, Vetro and her family re-launched Old Europe Pastries on Broadway St. in Asheville. "It wasn't so much about "trying again,' as it was … a refusal to give up," Vetro says.

Then Vetro's world flipped upside down. In 2012, her breast cancer returned. Her husband, Zoltan, died the following year.

"I suddenly became a single mother and a business owner and just had to put my boots to the ground and power through," Vetro says. "It is how I was raised, to just take care of business."

From setbacks to "endless possibilities.'

Fast forward to 2020. Last year, Vetro was six years cancer free, and Old Europe Pastries was still chugging along. Growing, even. Then, the global Covid-19 health crisis happened. Businesses all over the world were closing—some temporarily, many for good. Having faced business failure, battled cancer, and overcame personal grief, Vetro was determined that Old Europe Pastries would survive the pandemic.

While the doors to her pastry shop were closed due to the health crisis, she started a pastry and coffee delivery service. She called her State Farm® agent, Rebecca Sandoval, to help work out the details. Over the years, Sandoval had been integral to helping Old Europe Pastries obtain its insurance coverage, like workers' compensation, as the business grew.

"I met with her on the front porch of my office and listened to her needs," says Rebecca Sandoval, an Independent Contractor Agent with State Farm. "To survive, she needed an Employers' Non-owned Car Liability policy for when employees drive their own vehicles to make deliveries. The ability to do this enabled her to expand her operations at a time when many businesses were not able to adapt."

The delivery service enabled Old Europe Pastries to do more than just survive the pandemic—it did indeed thrive. "We have since stopped doing deliveries because we could not actually keep up with the demands of the business anymore," Vetro says. "It was a good problem to have!"

Today, Vetro's sights are set even higher. Earlier this year, she purchased a three-story property across Broadway where she plans to relocate and expand Old Europe Pastries. Sandoval and her team inspected the property and helped Vetro review her insurance needs.

"She is making cosmetic enhancements to the building that support her vision," Sandoval says. "It has been exciting to watch Melinda grow even more confident in her business acumen; she has taken ownership of the management and daily aspects of her business and strategized to adapt and flourish."

"I have taken everything that I have learned over the last 26 years and applied it to this venture, to create a warm and inviting space with delicious coffee and pastries," Vetro says. "The possibilities are completely endless now."

Click here to find out how State Farm can help insure your business and achieve your entrepreneurial vision.

State Farm

Bloomington, Illinois

State Farm

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