Jamaican-American Pinky Cole builds the Slutty Vegan empire

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Combining gourmet vegan creations with an allusive theme, Slutty Vegan, the ever-growing vegan fast-food boutique chain, enchants thousands in lines that stretch down city blocks.

Estimated at $100 million

With its valuation of $100 million Slutty vegan may seem like the culmination of 34-year-old Aisha “Pinky” Cole’s vision, but this proud Jamaican-American is just getting started.

In early 2022, Cole, the CEO and founder of Slutty Vegan, raised $25 million in Series A funding from investors including famed mega restaurateur Danny Meyer of Shake Shack. The investment, Cole says, will be used to open about 20 new locations over the next two years. To date, there are seven Slutty Vegans locations spanning from New York to Georgia to Alabama. Cole plans to go national.

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International recognition

Over the past year, Cole’s success has garnered her a lot of press, and she’s become one of the most talked about restaurateurs today. She has been featured on CNN, Forbes, Essence, The New York Times and many other major media outlets. She is a regular keynote speaker at events and her social media following has grown to nearly half a million.

Jamaican roots

Cole’s parents are both Jamaican Rastafarian. Pinky Cole was born on the day her father, Asher Cole, was sentenced to 22 years in prison for criminal ventures and distributing cocaine. She took a front row seat to her mother, Ichelle Cole’s unparalleled work ethic. Ichelle Cole balanced three jobs — including working at McDonald’s and singing in a reggae band — to provide for her children. This entrepreneurial rush is in Cole’s DNA.

Her business acumen began in middle school, where she posed as an adult to book time and space at her local Baltimore recreation center to throw weekly parties. Thousands of people would appear regularly. “I remember counting about $4000 on the floor with my mom every other week.” Cole tells Forbes. Barely in her youth, she brought in more income than her mother. From then on she knew: “The entrepreneurial life is the life I have to live.”

challenges along the way

The road to where she is today has not always been smooth. Slutty Vegan is Cole’s second venture as a restaurateur. At just 26, she opened her first restaurant, saved money by working as a production assistant, Pinky’s Jamaican and American Restaurant, in NYC. “I made a lot of money, so much money that I also opened a juice bar on 139th and Lennox,” explains Cole.

Unfortunately, everything literally went up in smoke. She remembers the phone call vividly. One afternoon she received word that a grease fire had torpedoed the company. Cole hit rock bottom. She had no money, was evicted from her apartment and had to go home to Baltimore.

She took the time to recalibrate herself. Cole tore through book after book and managed a five-mile run every day. She is set for success. The idea for Slutty Vegan came to Cole one day when he was looking for something to eat. The almost lifelong vegetarian immediately recognized a gap that needed to be filled – affordable and accessible vegan food.

sex & food

As far as branding goes, it’s simple: “Sex and food are the most pleasurable experiences in life, and when you combine them, you have a recipe for success,” she says.

Cole has turned this incredible success into a book deal for her forthcoming release, Eat Plants, B*tch: 91 Vegan Recipes That Will Blow Your Meat Lover Away. She also founded the Pinky Cole Foundation, an organization with a mission to empower generations of color to win in life, financially and in pursuing their entrepreneurial dreams.

Pinky Cole is undoubtedly a Jamaican American to watch as she continues to build the solid empire of her dreams.

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