Aisha “Pinky” Cole is a busy woman. The founder and CEO of vegan burger chain Slutty Vegan now has products ranging from kettle chips to CBD gummies, not to mention a shoe deal, a foundation, and an upcoming cookbook (Eat Plants Bitch). In addition, Cole says a major grocery chain has ordered 60,000 units of Slutty Vegan dip, which comes in flavors like Bangin’ Hot-Lanta Chik’n and has already been on shelves at Target. And Cole is expanding beyond the Atlanta-based chain’s five stores into markets like Brooklyn and Baltimore. She says her goal is “to build a billion-dollar brand.”

Born to Jamaican Rastafarian immigrants in Baltimore in 1987, for the first 20 years of her life, Cole’s father was serving a life sentence in prison and he was later deported to Jamaica. Cole spent her childhood with her mother, a musician in the reggae group Strykers’ Posse. A vegan for eight years, Cole is engaged to Derrick Hayes, a fellow entrepreneur who owns Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks. They have a baby daughter together, with another on the way.

While Cole’s vegan cooking has struck a chord with consumers looking to reduce or eliminate meat from their diets, she’s not alone in tapping a new market. While the percentage of vegans in the population is hard to track, various research polls put the numbers at up to 6% and growing fast. There are more than 24,000 vegetarian-friendly restaurants in the U.S., including 1,474 vegan eateries, according to the latest count by Happy Cow, which helps vegan consumers find places to eat.

In 2014, she opened Pinky’s Jamaican and American restaurant in Harlem. But, following a grease fire, she lost everything in the restaurant. In need of a job, Cole took a job in Los Angeles to work as a casting director for the Oprah Winfrey Network’s talk series Iyanla: Fix My Life. She then traveled to Atlanta to continue working on the show.

When the idea for Slutty Vegan came to her in July 2018, she started the early beginnings of Slutty Vegan using a shared kitchen space while taking orders through direct messages on Instagram. “The next thing I know, there’s about 300 people standing outside, trying to pick up their orders,” says Cole, who went on to open a food truck and then fixed locations.

“When you walk into the doors of Slutty Vegan,” says Cole, “it’s like coming into a sanctuary of fun. We’re yelling at you. We’re dancing. We got Hip Hop music busting through the speakers. You got people calling you a slut. You get your food. You got alcohol. It’s a party atmosphere.”

Cole says Slutty Vegan’s energetic brand resembles that of her own personality.

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