SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Here to promote her book and talk to Savannah State students, the mastermind behind the Slutty Vegan brand, Pinky Cole-Hayes, is an inspiring entrepreneur reimagining veganism.
“When you think about Slutty Vegan, it’s not just about burgers, pies and fries, but it’s a movement, and people get excited to be a part of that movement,” said Cole-Hayes.
Named in the Times 100 Next List 2023, nominated by the NAACP for her book “Eat Plants B*tch” and awarded the Champion of the League by the Urban League of Greater Atlanta with her husband, Cole-Hayes says this is her season.
The business that started it all
Opening in Atlanta in 2018, Slutty Vegan is a $100 million company that combines everyone’s two favorite things: sex and food. It grabs your attention with burgers named “One Night Stand” and “Sloppy Toppy.”
She wants us all to be “sluttified,” which she defines as opening up your consciousness to think “Vegan food is not that bad.”
When you enter a Slutty Vegan, you are introduced to a culture of all inclusion, with cooks and hosts celebrating your arrival whether it’s your first time or tenth.
“When you come to Slutty Vegan, you can be Black, white, blue, yellow, green, you’re going to have a good time, you’re gonna come in the name of food and love and you’re gonna fellowship like nobody’s watching,” said Cole-Hayes.
Slutty Vegan does this to set themselves apart and bring community to whoever enters any of the eight stores across the country.
“By far, by society standards, we are supposed to be an anomaly because when you think about vegan, you don’t think about it being slutty,” said Cole-Hayes.
“This is an ecosystem of a restaurant chain that’s having people learn about financial literacy, having our philanthropic effort support the community while selling food and giving them a really good experience,” said Cole-Hayes. “There will never be another Slutty Vegan.”
Passion and purpose
In 2019, Cole-Hayes started The Pinky Cole Foundation to elevate her community by giving out LLCs, paying the debt of students to graduate, fundraising to help entrepreneurs grow, partnering with the Department of Juvenile Justice, DJJ, and the list goes on.
“Giving back is what really means the most to me. The restaurant does well, people come to the restaurant, but there’s a certain joy that comes with knowing that I can use my resources to make other people better is exhilarating,” said Cole-Hayes.
She tells us that she wants to be an example and role model to others — to be an example of success for her community.
“You have to know what your ‘why’ is, and be super intentional about that,” said Cole-Hayes.
She notes that you want to start a business with an ethos and a persona beyond just selling a product and craft a mission behind the movement.
“People can smell when it’s a fraud, they can smell when it’s a fake, but they also recognize when it’s authentic, genuine and real,” said Cole-Hayes.
She believes in the notion of “eating with your eyes,” because the little things matter. Things such as making sure the floorboards are clean and the bathrooms are spotless.
Grateful for her team, she highlights the importance of having a tight crew that is on the same page.
“The team has to be as strong if not stronger than you; as smart if not smarter than you,” Cole-Hayes said. “They gotta be as hungry if not hungrier than you, and if you don’t have that, it will affect your brand that you will not be happy about.”
The failure and lessons learned
“I Hope You Fail” is the title of her new book, which she says is “for all the failures.”
“I wanted people to understand that you don’t have to wallow and marinate in the hard things. You can navigate above that and you can reprogram your mind to understand that there’s a lesson in the process,” said Cole-Hayes.
She labels herself as a certified failure, which she defines as a person who finds inspiration in the losses. All her failures have set the tone for her foundation today.
“First of all, it is not easy being an entrepreneur,” said Cole-Hayes. “Even with my first restaurant I had a grease fire and I lost everything, but what I realized is, when you are a sophisticated business owner, you really just gotta continue to grow,” said Cole-Hayes.
With a lot on her plate as a mother, a wife, a sister, a daughter, an author and an entrepreneur, she wants to show other women like her that they can do it, have it all and have fun.
From a Caribbean household, she learned the importance of discipline from her mother, which she implements not in order to balance her life but to fulfill her purpose.
Not only is she on a mission to provide delicious vegan burgers, but she is also paving the way for her five children and one on the way by not telling but showing.
“I want my kids to value the idea of freedom, and unlocking that level of freedom to be able to go and do the things that you want to do and I am setting them up from now,” said Cole-Hayes.
Looking for a location in the area, Savannah may soon be sluttified.
“Savannah is on my list,” she said.
Cole-Hayes will be holding a book signing at 6 p.m. Tuesday and talking with Savannah State students at 4 p.m.