Words by Rasheida Moss
Aisha “Pinky” Cole didn’t intend on coming back to Atlanta.
However, the Slutty Vegan owner said fate led her back to her college town.
Cole opened her second restaurant, a vegan burger joint, in the West End locale in January, one with which Cole—a 2009 Clark Atlanta University alumni—is all too familiar.
It was more than just attending Clark Atlanta that helped make her exciting vegan food venture a monumental success; there, she cultivated relationships and networking opportunities that have elevated her business to date.
She considers Slutty Vegan a direct result of her experience at Clark.
“I wouldn’t be successful as I am now if it weren’t for the experiences that I’ve gained at CAU,” the Slutty Vegan T-shirt wearing, ripped jean-clad Cole said from her restaurant on Ralph David Abernathy Blvd. Slutty Vegan began as a food truck with a sex-sells tag after her venture into a commercial kitchen, not expecting the overwhelming response to her food.
“Literally there was no game plan for any of this,” Cole said. “You want to make God laugh, you tell him your plans, and I think I made God laugh because I wasn’t thinking big enough.”
In less than a year she has gained the attention she said people would pay millions for; Slutty Vegan’s brand has attracted 194,000 Instagram followers and counting, and it has caught the eye of dozens of celebrities waiting to try a One Night Stand or Sloppy Toppy burger.
Cole credits the relevancy of her success in part to social media, specifically Instagram. She wanted to utilize a platform that would be beneficial to her target audience while helping to propel her brand.
That she has gotten several notable celebrities and public figures to patron her business organically is a testament to the ability to capitalize from a free platform such as Instagram.
“I didn’t have to bribe or lure anybody to be a part of the brand; they just naturally wanted to be a part of it, they just naturally loved it,” Cole said.
When fate drew her back to Atlanta, Slutty Vegan was born. Cole, recalled a late night at home and she couldn’t find any tasty vegan food places open — so she decided to create it.
She manifested a simple idea: to sell good vegan cheeseburgers, but it has grown exponentially in the past nine months.
This isn’t Cole’s first endeavor in the food industry. The Baltimore native owned Pinky’s, a Jamaican restaurant in Harlem, which unfortunately burned down in a grease fire.
She’s grateful for the trial and error she experienced with Pinky’s. Because of it, she doesn’t take the opportunity with Slutty Vegan for granted.
“There’s a lot of purity that goes into this restaurant a lot of genuineness, not that the last restaurant didn’t, but the intention the previous restaurant was built on is completely different from this one,” Cole said.
And for another moment, she went back to her Atlanta roots.
“(At CAU), I learned all the tools needed to run a business properly and to work in a high-paced environment,” Cole said. ‘l’ll Find a Way or Make One’ is probably the realest thing anybody has ever said, so, every situation that I’m in I always use that motto to really get me through any challenges, any hardships.”
“I can’t give anybody else any praise except for Clark Atlanta University,” Cole said.
Cole is proud to have set up shop in a historically-relevant location because she was able to help “revive a community” that is growing along with her business. She has already outgrown the space and is looking ahead, but “to be able to say that Slutty Vegan, that the restaurant commenced at this location is huge,” Cole said.
Her most unwavering support, the people who stand in lines for hours to eat a vegan cheeseburger, are the heart of this neighborhood: the black community. It’s genuine, organic support that she wouldn’t trade for the world.
“To see black people come together in a space where people really think that black people don’t support and that we don’t support one another,” Cole said. “To see the support that exists here, it just goes to show you that we’re willing to uplift our brothers and sisters, and they’re doing that with me. So I’m happy that I’m the example.”
Cole has a few exciting plans blooming for her restaurant, including budding franchising opportunities, new locations and potential presence in Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
“There are some good things that are brewing,” she said, “and I’m looking forward to what the future has to hold.”
Visit Slutty Vegan on Instagram or in person at 1542 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd, Atlanta, GA 30310.