Last year, in the middle of what we believe to be the darkest times of the COVID-19 pandemic, after endless months of cooking at home, my husband and I decided to venture out of our cocoon and get “worn out”. This is what people are called after a visit to one of Atlanta’s hippest burger joint that is called provocative: Slutty vegan.
Slutty Vegan is owned by 33-year-old fuchsia-loc’d Maven and philanthropist Aisha “Pinky” Cole and has three locations in the ATL, with more in the works. Their menu reads with the “Ménage à Trois”, the “One Night Stand” and the “Super Slut” more like a list of offers in a brothel than like a restaurant, and the atmosphere is more reminiscent of a night club. But it’s not just the cheeky burger names or the concept of plant-based fast food that literally wraps customers around the block at all of their locations, it’s the atmosphere that created it, too. Slutty Vegan is more than a restaurant. It’s a culture. And Cole is at the center of it all by building a community based around supporting black entrepreneurs, getting involved in politics, giving back, and thinking about what you put into your body.
Upworthy spoke to Cole while hanging out at home with her one month old daughter D. Ella. The restaurant owner, now in the seven digits, spoke about her recent PETA honor of growing up the daughter of a Rastafarian Jamaican mother, of owning a Jerk Chicken restaurant in Harlem that tragically burned down the many brands that were partnering with her Competing, and How Vitally It is to your business to be ethically consistent with your beliefs.
Upworthy: Where did the name come from?
Cole: I was a TV producer for over 10 years. The only thing I’m good at is getting people to pay attention. I know sex sells, and the two most pleasant experiences in life are sex and food. If I could bring these two experiences together and make it not dirty but sexy and educational, I knew it was going to be big, especially in the heart of the south. I bring this concept into culture, music and entertainment. I’ll show you how to eat better, even if it starts with burgers, fries, and pies. I needed a name so classy that you would watch out. Then I can start dropping the gems on you. And we’ve managed to bring people together in the name of food. And to help people rethink food, especially the “flexitarians”, people who are meat eaters.
Venerable: How was it for you to be honored by PETA as one of their “most beautiful vegans”?
C: I love what PETA represents. You have supported and supported me from the start. Being with so many other great vegans shows me that I am in the room. That means, I stand by the side of people who stand for something. People making changes in their communities and it feels good to be connected that way.
Venerable: Let’s talk about The Pinky Cole Foundation.
C: I officially founded the foundation in 2019. But it was just one way to formalize what I’ve been doing for years. I’ve always been a steward of people. I saw my mother do it. She helped everyone whenever she could. She pulled her clothes off her back to help people. The foundation is the core of who we are. Slutty Vegan is nothing without the philanthropic aspect. I want to close the wealth gap between generations. I want people to see that a young woman can start a business and it can go beyond money but help the community and provide group economy and give back. Money doesn’t move me. It’s the ability to use my resources to help people.
* Cole helped 30 students at Clark Atlanta University balance their balances. When Rayshard Brooks was shot dead by Wendy in a parking lot by Atlanta police, Cole provided Brooks’ family with life insurance, a new car, and $ 600,000 scholarships to help them go to college. She has teamed up with TV host Steve Harvey and his wife, Marjories Foundation Pay the utility bills for 100 Atlanta residents. She has donated thousands of pounds of products and winter coats to local families in need. Cole along with Derrick “D” Hayes, CEO of Big Dave Cheesesteaks, offered life insurance to all black men in Atlanta, who earn $ 30,000 or less annually, and they got on with that. teamed up Justice Department wants to hire former juvenile offenders at Slutty Vegan, and so much more.
Venerable: How do you encourage and inspire all of your thousands of customers to do something in their own community?
C: Lead by example. I am speaking to so many listeners. I speak to women; Minorities; Children of immigrants; Mothers; Small business owners; People who come from middle-class families; I speak to so many different people. So when people come and support Slutty Vegan, they feel represented. People see the representation through me. As long as I continue to be an example that you can do it. You can be from East Baltimore or, as we say, “around” and be anything you have dreamed of. Pinky Cole did it and so can I. That is the empowerment they see.
Venerable: What is your philosophy of being vegan in terms of health, the environment, the black community and neighborhoods with obvious food deserts?
C: I’m not trying to impose my agenda on anyone. My audience are people who are not necessarily vegan. It’s like Christianity and Islam. Believe in what you want to believe in. I can show you the way, but I won’t make you drink the way. My emphasis is on experience. I want people to be comfortable. And feeling good means eating well and thinking well. Emotionally, spiritually and mentally. Food can do that for you. If I walk around with a sign that says “Eat Vegan or Die!” No. But what I want to say is let me show you another way
Venerable: Felt like you had to recreate traditional fast food but vegan to make sure you have customers? Especially in the south?
C: My father has a saying, “Success is like mud. If you throw something on the wall, something gets stuck. ‘ And that got stuck. Of course, I knew I had to address my audience. I did this by fusing food and culture. Slutty Vegan grew so quickly because so many celebrities supported the brand. We were able to use other people’s platforms, especially celebrities, to expand the brand. So, if you see your favorite celebrity eating or doing something that you enjoy doing nine times out of ten, you’ll want to do it. I meet people where they are. Concentration on entertainment and, secondly, on food. We’re in the south, so southern home cooking is at the heart of life here. So how can I get the people in the heart of the south to eat vegan? Put it in the music. Put it in the conversation. The things that people pay attention to. Megan Thee Stallion eats slutty vegan, so of course people who love her want to eat it too. People want to see what all the hype is about.
Venerable: Since opening in 2018, have you noticed a difference in the taste and acceptance of veganism as a concept among your customers?
C: When we started none of the big chains had options, now they all have. And I like to say that we were the inspiration for it – humble. We were the guinea pigs. We tested the market so they didn’t have to. And that’s the goal of getting more people to eat a plant-based diet. And that is a win for the plant community and for people who want to change their lives and get better.
Venerable: What do you say when people say that being vegan is too expensive for me?
C: It’s more expensive. But you pay for your health. If you have been eating badly all your life, you will have to pay for medication. Pay for your health now or later. Society doesn’t make you think about it like that. I think COVID made us think more about our health. That’s why Slutty Vegan became even more successful during the pandemic. People wanted to live better.
Venerable: What Are Your Tips To Become A Successful Entrepreneur?
C: Screw up all the time. I make a lot of conscious mistakes. I make choices that make sense to me, but sometimes those choices aren’t the best, but that helps me learn. When my first restaurant caught fire, I was sick. But that taught me how to make sure my papers are correct and that I have fire insurance. Alignment is also a big thing in business. I think you have to ask yourself a few questions. Why am I starting this business? Who will it support? Who will help besides me? If you have pure intentions, you will win. Everything I’ve done I’ve done with pure intentions. That’s why I always win. I feel confident because I go to sleep at night, because I know I haven’t done anyone wrong, and I’ve moved with good intentions, helping people on their way.