Vegetarian Times Restaurateur of the Year and Slutty Vegan founder Pinky Cole has built a burger empire while continually giving back to her community – and she's not anywhere near done
It was as if Pinky Cole, the entrepreneur, restaurateur, philanthropist, and CEO of Slutty Vegan and Bar Vegan, had been preparing for the marathon of her life.
“I was running five miles a day, reading a book a day, and I just knew that I was getting ready to do something,” Cole tells me. “I was in a space where I knew something big was about to happen, but I didn’t know what it was.”
One day amidst her search for that something, she found herself sitting on her then-boyfriend’s couch in Atlanta. Though she says she’s not a smoker, she took a hit of his blunt — and, then, she recalls, the idea struck like a lightning bolt. In that moment, Slutty Vegan was born.
Just weeks after what Cole now refers to as “the blunt worth 100 million dollars,” she kicked off the marathon preparing burgers and fries out of a rental commercial kitchen in Atlanta, Georgia, using delivery apps to get her vision out into people’s hands in July of 2018.
She didn’t have burgers growing up, which is why she says the build is backwards, with a base of lettuce and tomato instead of a patty. Her burgers, which combine sweet, spicy, and tangy flavors on a Hawaiian bun, became a certified home-run, and that October, the first brick-and-mortar Slutty Vegan opened in Atlanta.
Now there are eight locations and more coming soon, spread across multiple states. And when the latest Slutty Vegan opened in Brooklyn, Eater reported it was greeted with hours-long lines and a block party that shut down a chunk of Fort Greene.
She pauses to reflect back on her start. “Damn, I really grew a multimillion dollar business not knowing what the hell I was doing, literally,” she says, smiling. “Like, half the time, I don’t know what I’m doing, and it works.”