From school project to storefront, Lakeshore teen has big plans for fattoush dressing company
Ameen Fadel started Cedar Valley Selections at the age of 16
An Essex County salad dressing company has a school announcement to thank for its founding and growth.
"I've always knew that I've wanted to start my own company," said Ameen Fadel. The 18-year-old is the founder and CEO of Cedar Valley Selections, a Lakeshore-based business that produces a bottled dressing for fattoush salad, a popular dish originally from the Middle East.
In 2015, as a Grade 10 student at Belle River District High School, Fadel heard about a government program that would provide young entrepreneurs with $3,000 to start their own business.
Initially unsure of what kind of business he wanted to start, Fadel was quickly reminded of a childhood memory.
"My hockey team, we would always have team parties. So my mom, she was always [asked to bring] fattoush salad," he explained. "One of the moms told us one day 'you should bottle this and sell it.'"
Fadel asked him mother, Surria Fadel, if she would be willing to support him in starting a fattoush dressing business. The fitness trainer and therapist agreed, and Cedar Valley Selections was born.
Using students and teachers at Belle River District as taste testers, the company, which also includes Fadel's father Ramsey and sister, Muna, developed a signature recipe over the course of 2016.
In 2017, Cedar Valley Selections opened a booth at the Downtown Windsor Farmers' Market.
"The first day was crazy, we sold a whole bunch of stuff and everybody was loving it," Fadel explained. "That really got our name out there ... people were approaching us and saying 'hey, we want to sell your dressing in our store.'"
Tap on the video to see Surria Fadel prepare a fattoush salad.
The demand fuelled by the downtown market led the Fadels to open a production facility and storefront on Amy Croft Drive in Lakeshore in January.
In addition to dressing and pita chips, customers can purchase Lebanese-inspired soups, salads and sandwiches.
Cedar Valley Selections products can also be found in a growing number of stores across southwestern Ontario.
Fadel is now a first-year business student at the University of Windsor. He admits with a laugh that he often learns about things in class that he's already experienced as CEO.
The demands of being a full-time student haven't dampened Fadel's plans for the family business.
"We're really hoping to upscale production," he said. "We want to get into the big box stores ... and hopefully be all over Canada, and then branch into the U.S."
Cedar Valley Selections is located at 25 Amy Croft Drive, Unit 30B in Lakeshore.
Jonathan Pinto is CBC Windsor's food reporter. Hear his latest tasty story every other Monday at 4:45 p.m. on CBC Radio's Afternoon Drive with Chris dela Torre, and at 6 p.m. on CBC Television's CBC News Windsor with Arms Bumanlag.