A unique everyday favorite at the fashionable Power Plant Mall
Selling taho is a pedestrian profession, right? And hawking street food under the scorching sun is no fun, since it’s “poor man’s food”.
To one named Nelson Dugayo, however, it’s a precious, sweet blend and a lucrative livelihood. After all, this taho vendor is not your regular sweaty fellow selling the soya-based product on street corners. He used to be like that, yes. But he isn’t anymore.
The tall, soft spoken Nelson is the proud owner of the highly popular and rabidly patronized taho stall at the Concourse Level of the Power Plant Mall.
What’s that again? A vendor selling taho at Power Plant Mall? Yes. And how he turned his life around from simple street hawker to young entrepreneur is the stuff of big dreams coming true, thanks to industry, perseverance. And perhaps a lucky star out there.
Nelson started selling taho at the age of 18. He and his brother-in-law started their little business with a small investment, sourcing out their taho from a distributor, then peddling their ware in the streets of Makati every day, rain or shine, all year long.
Nelson plied the JP Rizal route, but found himself gravitating more and more to the Power Plant Mall area. “It was my favorite spot and I grew some loyal customers there. For two years I sold taho at the corner of Waterfront Drive and J.P. Rizal. Then one day an official of the mall invited me to sell my taho at a food event at the Concourse. Life has never been the same since,” Nelson recounts.
“It felt so ordinary, but somewhere at the back of my mind, I felt it was a special moment,” Nelson says, with some sense of disbelief, looking back. “I always made it a point to be cordial with all my customers and I earned some loyal ones because of that. One day, a man bought taho from me and asked me if my taho business was doing well. I excitedly said, ‘Ok na ok po!’ Then he surprised me by inviting me to his office to talk about my business. I couldn’t believe it. I had no idea that the man I was talking to was Mr. Nestor Padilla, the president of Rockwell himself. He really changed my life,” Nelson said, almost wistfully.
Then, he used to work day and night so he could provide, no matter how simply, for his wife and two kids. “There were times when I would stay awake for 48 hours, selling taho in the morning, then working as a part-time waiter for a catering service at night. It was very exhausting but I needed to do it. Making good use of your time is very important for business and your personal life.”
Now Nelson still sells taho, but he already has employees working under him. He owns a permanent stall in the mall which has become a certified mall attraction.
“I did not think that my taho would become such a big hit. I didn’t think rich people would like it. Then the buyers came, one after the other. Even foreigners would buy my taho. Parents and their children would fall in line for my taho too. My customers tell me they are glad to find a magtataho inside the mall because it used to be their favorite snack when they were kids, and now, they also want their kids to experience it as well.”
Nelson says there is nothing really extra-special about his product. “It’s the same taho that we all love and continue to crave for now and then. My product is really ordinary, but I make it special by preparing it with so much passion and discipline.”
“Time is very important in the taho business,” Nelson explains.
“The product has a short shelf life — five to six hours and that’s it. You must sell it within that time because after that it will begin to spoil. You also have to be very, very gentle with it. Taho breaks easily and you can’t sell it anymore if it’s broken up. I make it a point to teach the right way to handle taho to my employees.”
Business is good, Nelson admits. Now he has taken in his siblings to assist him in the business because he no longer buys taho from a distributor. He prepares and cooks the taho himself because his earnings have allowed him to buy his own grinding machine for the soybeans.
His earnings have gone up from his usual Php 400-700 daily to the Php 2,300 he earns daily per container. There are days when he is able to sell up to 3 containers, which enables him to earn almost Php 7,000 on good days. He is able to afford life’s good things — like a washing machine and a personal computer for his family, which he uses a lot to prepare the monthly reports that he submits to the Retail office of the mall.
Now 22, Nelson remains humble and still describes his life as simple. What is important to him right now, he says, is how he can pay it forward to other people.
“I have been blessed with a fair share of good fortune so I want to share my blessings with others. My taho business is now the main source of livelihood for my family and because of it, I am able to support my mother, help my siblings and even afford to send my nephew to school. I wasn’t able to finish my schooling because times were really hard then and I only reached Grade Four. But by sending other people to school, I feel I am making a major contribution and fulfilling something within myself”.
“I have been really lucky to have been given an area in the mall to sell taho, and for that I will forever be grateful to Mr. Nestor Padilla. I will never forget his kindness to me, and that is why I always work hard every day. I’ll always remember Mr. Padilla’s wise words to me : ‘stay focused on your business’. And I will. I won’t let him down because if it weren’t for him and Rockwell, I wouldn’t be able to experience this,” Nelson adds.
Despite everything that he has already been blessed with, Nelson’s feet remain firmly planted on the ground. He never forgets his humble beginnings and thanks everyone who has helped him along the way.
Nelson’s Taho continues to be a main attraction at the Concourse level of the Power Plant Mall. The “poor man’s food” blends excellently into the colorful mix of shops and eateries at the eclectic mall, intriguing even sophisticated patrons with its utmost simplicity and nutrition-filled goodness.
Because of its success it is evident that Nelson ’s surefire formula of mixing passion with dedication, hard work, discipline, enthusiasm and a good-natured disposition really works. It inspires us all. As for Nelson, never again will he need to take to the streets to shout “Tahooo-oo!” come rain or come shine. Now it’s the taho-lovers who seek him out and indulge their cravings at his shop at the Power Plant Mall.