Roommates, if you live in Atlanta, you’re already very aware of Pinky Cole and her massively successful restaurant empire Slutty Vegan—and now as her business has reached mainstream success complete with expansion, she’s stepping into The Shade Room to tell us all about it!
In just four short years, Pinky Cole made Slutty Vegan a phenomenon that’s landed her on the ‘Forbes Next 1000’ list and ‘Entrepreneur Magazine’s 100 Most Powerful Women.’ We spoke to her exclusively regarding her success, what’s to come and more.
Beginning with her very first Atlanta location, Cole explained to us why she chose vegan food to start her career. “I founded Slutty Vegan in 2018 because I was craving some vegan comfort food on a late night. I was just sitting in my bedroom, and it came to me. There isn’t any crazy backstory to the idea. I started out with a ghost kitchen and figured out that I was solving a problem that other people had too. Slutty Vegan is a fun way to reimagine food and I was helping people that were craving vegan comfort food. That was the first Slutty Vegan, doing it my way, with my blueprint, and not caring about what anybody had to say,” she said.
Quickly you’ll notice that Slutty Vegan restaurants are located in predominantly Black neighborhoods, something that Pinky Cole says is not by accident. She explained, saying “There are a lot of strong Black cultural connections in Atlanta, and it was really important to me to give back to the city’s Black community through Slutty Vegan and the Pinky Cole Foundation. There’s such a strong sense of community at Slutty Vegan. We place all of our locations in food deserts and areas where we know we can make the community better.”
She’s definitely keeping her word about making the Atlanta community better, as she and her partner Derrick Hayes (who both just covered ‘ESSENCE’ magazine) recently purchased an entire block within the city with big plans for expansion:
“Yes, not only are we restauranteurs but we are business partners dedicated to making a positive change in today’s society by impacting our communities. So, Derrick and I bought the block and will continue buying blocks and doing what we can to [supply] neighborhoods in need. We plan to develop community centers for youth, continue providing jobs, and spread the knowledge that we have. We want to share the things we’ve learned with our community. Our latest initiative is the Square 1: The Life Experience Initiative launched in June 2021. Square 1 aims to provide life insurance to 25,000 black men by 2023 that they do not have to pay for. We partnered with Prudential. This is just another way we are collectively using our platforms to give back and impact the communities that support us in all that we do!”
Cole and Hayes were recently placed in the national spotlight courtesy of a sleek cover story with ‘ESSENCE’, and she admits that it was a dream come true! “Growing up it was always a dream to be on the cover of ‘ESSENCE’ and now I can say I not only accomplished that goal but was able to do it with my life partner. We made history with the cover during Black History month and were the first restaurateurs to be on the cover. ‘ESSENCE’ traditionally covers entertainers, but we broke the internet, and our cover did extremely well. We want every young person coming up to know they can achieve their wildest dreams. I am a girl from East Baltimore, a little rough around the edges and yet I am the CEO of the world-famous Slutty Vegan!”
Speaking about the overwhelming response to Slutty Vegan, Cole says that it has been an amazing journey. “I’m beyond thrilled at how Slutty Vegan has been received across the country and beyond. I was just really solving a problem for myself and the community. I knew I was on the right path with Slutty Vegan when people were inspired and motivated by my work. It feels amazing to have my community look up to me like that.”
However, Pinky Cole isn’t just focused on her solo journey as a successful millennial restauranteur—and she hopes that her story can inspire others to follow in her footsteps. She stated, “Slutty Vegan is something that I truly believe in. I want people to live better, eat better, and think better. Since I was a kid, I’ve always wanted to be my own boss. I wanted to create my own opportunities and create opportunities for other people. My advice is to find something that you love and believe in no matter what anybody else says. Also, never forget your community and give back as much as you get.”
We love to see this abundance of #BlackGirl Magic on full display and can’t wait to see what Pinky Cole and her Slutty Vegan empire do next!
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