Slutty Vegan Founder Pinky Cole’s Secret to Getting More People to Eat Vegan
As Slutty Vegan expands to five restaurants including one Bar Vegan, in and around the greater Atlanta area, we caught up with founder and vegan celebrity Pinky Cole, who has used her platform to promote plant-based eating as well as causes such as voter registration and even help other entrepreneurs get started.
The number one most powerful message her humorous and hearty brand conveys is that vegan food can be accessible, delicious, and a treat – nothing like the old perceptions of vegan food as fit for rabbits more than humans. Now as she prepares to release her first cookbook and expand her empire, with plans to open two locations in New York City in 2022, we caught up with Cole and learned the secret to her success.
She is a doer, a maker, and a producer, and an impressive spokesperson who is the living, breathing embodiment of her own brand and also a broader message about what each one of us can accomplish with the vision, passion, and conviction of our own beliefs.
Pinky Cole is more than a restaurateur since she is solving a universal problem, helping people "reimagine food" and calling attention to the power of individuals to change their own outcomes and contribute to a greater good. Here is how Pinky is doing all this with heart and humor. Get ready to be inspired.
The Beet: Congratulations on opening your 5th place, 4th Slutty Vegan!
I love the blend of humor and heart of Slutty Vegan – love your whole outlook on life. One of the things that are so exciting to watch is that a lot of people come at eating vegan or plant-based from a serious point of view... there are serious reasons to go vegan: the climate is warming up and most of us need a health check-up, and animals are suffering. All that is serious. But what I love about you and Slutty Vegan is you welcome the meat-eaters to the table. And you do it with humor!
Pinky Cole: That is the secret to success to Slutty Vegan.
When I started this concept, I was really solving a problem for myself but what I didn't realize at the time was I was helping solve a universal problem and that was helping people reimagine food, but in a way that they had never seen it before.
Historically when we talk about vegans, it’s always been a bougie lifestyle... But I wanted to create an atmosphere that was inclusive for all people no matter where you live or where you came from or what you do for a living, you can have vegan and plant-based options cruelty-free and guilt-free.
They taste good and you have a good experience while eating them. And when I did that, not only did it work, but what it did is it opened up an avenue for people to not be so stuffy when you talk about veganism. It doesn’t have to be as politicized as we make it
Now 97 percent of the people who come to my business are not vegan. I like it that way because I get to introduce them to this whole new way of living without pushing my agenda on them and that part feels the best to me.
Lucy Danziger: You have a huge amount of influence in this vegan movement.
What gave you the courage to open a restaurant with vegan in the title when it really is for non-vegans?
Pinky Cole: First it was for me. I noticed there was no place to get vegan after 9 p.m.
When I came up with the late-night vegan food idea, it was because I realized there was nowhere to get vegan food after 9 o’clock. Then I noticed that there are people who really want good food whether it's vegan or not.
My background is in television and I knew that sex and food will get anybody to buy anything! And when I merged both of those experiences people started coming in droves. So yeah, you hear the word vegan. But I thought: How can I make vegan raunchy by calling it slutty. But it has nothing to do with sex. It's just a way to dial you in. And once I have your attention I can teach you anything.
Lucy Danziger: When are you coming to New York City?
Pinky: I am coming to New York very soon, and coming there twice, in Brooklyn and in Harlem. I'll give you a head's up on Brooklyn: When I come to Brooklyn it's going to be close to where Biggie Smalls grew up [in Forte Green]. That's a news alert!
Lucy Danziger: I love to eat this type of food, but I also love to be healthy. How do you think about the health aspect of plant-based eating?
Pinky Cole. Everything in moderation!
I tell people I don't want you to eat Slutty Vegan every day. This is just the introduction to a whole new world. I want you to explore all options. I am be creating other concepts under the Slutty Vegan umbrella.
I am more of an alkaline vegan. I eat food that comes from the earth. Like directly from the earth. I want people to know that there are options and Slutty Vegan is the first step to a whole beautiful world that so many people don't know exists.
Lucy Danziger: Tell me about your new cookbook!
Pinky: The cookbook is with Simon and Schuster, and it's called: Eat Plants, Bitch!
What it is a book for the meat lover. It's 91 recipes for the person who loves their hard-core meat. I am exposing them to the plant-based lifestyle and giving them some decadent options and you don't have to miss your meat.
It's so fun that I have people coming from around the world coming [to Slutty Vegan] and I am bringing people together in the name of food. And that is the most beautiful form of protest in America right now. To be able to do that and spearhead that movement is everything to me.
I am not a politician but I like to call myself the neighborhood politician. If I can use my platform to help people then I will continue to do that. I feel like we did something good with helping register people to vote and if I can do good I will continue to do it.
Lucy Danziger: What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a business?
Pinky Cole: I would tell her that I hope you fail.
I know that sounds like crazy advice. But all the successes I have had in life are because I've had a perceived failure. Failure is not a failure at all – it's just a word. We give it power. But the hiccups and speedbumps and pitfalls, allowed me to get wiser and smarter and educated about all things that you need to learn and grow so you know what you need to know for next time. In order to get to the success that you want as an entrepreneur, you have to go through things. So embrace those so-called failures because they are opportunities for you to get better.
Lucy Danziger: What's your mantra?
Pinky Cole: When you stay ready you never have to get ready.
What that means is always be prepared. And I am always preparing myself. If I have to show up, I know what I am doing. I am training my mind like a marathon and I am always reading and thinking about think learning and getting smarter and wiser, about what I am doing.
The second one is that "Success is like mud." My father taught me that. What it means is: You are going to through a lot and throw things against the wall and something will stick. That one thing will be the thing that is a super success, your version of Slutty Vegan, and you are going to impact people around the world.