By now, the Atlanta-based vegan burger joint Slutty Vegan has taken over many a social media feed. But while Aisha “Pinky” Cole’s eatery has absolutely taken off since it garnered a major following as a delivery service turned food truck last year, it’s been a long road to success for the Clark Atlanta University graduate.
Cole is an entrepreneur who got her start in the TV industry in Los Angeles. Yet her business owner mindset led her to open a Jamaican restaurant in New York City called Pinky’s in 2014. However, a grease fire caused Cole’s eatery to shutter.
“A lot of people ask me what I changed about the last business … in order to get this kind of success,” she told Atlanta Black Star. “And I don’t think that I completely changed anything — it was God. It was in my destiny to really move how I moved and all of this was divine. I had a restaurant in 2014. It caught fire so I lost everything in that fire. And then I started working in TV and then I got Slutty Vegan. But the course was already written, I was just reading. … I was just unfolding those pages and things happened exactly as they’re supposed to happen.”
Cole asserts that if she had to start all over, “I wouldn’t change a thing.” And it’s apparent that that perspective has served her well.
After opening her first brick-and-mortar location in Atlanta’s Westview neighborhood in January, lines have not died down for Slutty Vegan’s storefront or its two food trucks deemed Slut Mobile and Big Ol’ Slut. Folks are regularly lined up at the eatery, the name of which Cole said, “hit me like a lightbulb” one day when she was searching for vegan junk food. Carnivores and vegans alike are willing to wait for hours to get a taste of burgers built on the Impossible Burger and piled high with toppings that include Slutty Vegan’s signature slutty sauce. And they’ll unabashedly order them at the counter requesting a One Night Stand or a Ménage à Trois. Some of those customers have also included a who’s who of Hollywood stars.
“We’ve had everyone you can think of,” Cole shares. “We had Tyler Perry, we had Omarian, we had Meagan Good, we had Cory Booker. We had everyone from A to zed.”
Well, maybe not quite everyone yet. The restaurateur says she’s got two high-profile stars she wants to lose their Slutty Vegan virginity, as the eatery famously calls out “virgins” who are first-time customers.
“It would be Beyoncé and Oprah,” Cole says with a chuckle. “Beyoncé because I know the minute she pops a burger in her mouth it’s a wrap and Slutty Vegan’s gonna have to go public.”
“Oprah is such an inspiration to me, and I admire all that she has done throughout the years and I’ve watched her do while growing up,” Cole adds of her former boss at the OWN network.
The CEO also recognizes how “crazy” the lines are at Slutty Vegan, which is set to open two more locations in Jonesboro, Georgia, and Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward neighborhood, and notes it’s not just locals who want to get their fill.
“People come from all over the world,” Cole says. “They come from Kenya, they come from London, Ohio, Europe. Anywhere that you can think of, they’re coming to Slutty Vegan. To see so many people who have heard about our brand from across the country shows that, one, we’re doing something right and, two, we’re helping people reimagine food.”
Yet, for all the worldwide and celebrity fanfare, the founder says it’s her mother’s pride that gives her the most satisfaction.
“I grew up to Jamaican parents. My dad did 20 years in prison. I watched how hard my mom worked, she worked four jobs to take care of us,” Cole said. “So to make my mother proud, to make my family in Jamaica proud, it shows me that I’m doing something right.”