By Chanda Temple
Slutty Vegan CEO and Founder Pinky Cole, who will open her restaurant today in Woodlawn with a block party starting at 12 p.m. and the ribbon cutting at 1 p.m., said her business is more than burgers, fries and pies. It is also an ecosystem focused on people, purpose and philanthropy.
On Saturday, she met with several small business leaders from Black Birmingham to discuss her rise to building a $100 million plant-based food business that has five locations in Georgia and is set to open many more in America. During her talk, she offered advice that people need to know when starting a business. Some of them include:
1. Hire an accountant, even if you don’t have a lot of money in the bank.
An accountant will help you ensure that your books are clean in case you are audited, especially if finances are not your strength. Cole made the mistake of not having an accountant when she started her first business in New York several years ago, and she failed to pay her sales and use tax. This mistake cost him two years after his first business burned down in a fire; the government seized his salary. But she said the mistake only made her a smarter entrepreneur. Hiring professionals will help you stay focused on the business.
“Sometimes you have to go through the mud, you have to go through speed bumps and tribulations and bad things for you to realize you have to make better choices.”
2. Hire a lawyer.
You will need legal support when running a business. Every name of his company, even the burgers and his name, is trademarked. Hire a lawyer upfront so you don’t have to worry about it while you’re building your foundation.
3. Hire a publicist.
His social media posts appeal to people because they make people laugh, make them proud, and give people information. But when she’s not promoting her food online, she’s also telling how the company gives back through scholarships and provides people with opportunities and resources. If you’re doing good in a neighborhood, let it be known. When you share good news people start talking, and when people start talking they will pay attention to you and buy what you have to offer.
“Philanthropy is the real business,” she said. “It’s not the product.”
4. Hire people who have the same restlessness as you.
If you have people around you who are bound to think smarter and come up with impossible ideas to improve the business, it will only make you a better entrepreneur.
5. Know what it means to be a good leader.
Over the past two years, Cole has learned what it takes to be a good leader. It takes collaboration and knowing what employees need. To grow a business, employees must enjoy being at work and helping customers come back.
6. Provide an experience for your customer.
When people visit Slutty Vegan, they get an experience they can’t get anywhere else. The way employees make customers feel is intentional. But it starts with building a strong internal corporate culture so that the external culture can exist. Cole raised the minimum wage, she offered incentives and more, which is very important for employees.
7. Get a mentor.
You’ll find mentors in different industries and at different ages, and it’s okay if they’re not in your business specialty. Cole only has one mentor in the restaurant space. Having the right people who will check you on the things you’re not doing right is important.
8. Don’t let small problems get to you.
Business evolution is so critical, Cole said. She used to freak out if her registry system crashed. She no longer panics. If the registry system fails, just tell people to support you. If you give off good energy, good energy will come back to you.
9. It’s okay to have a full-time job while you build your dream.
Cole was working as a casting director for “Iyanla, Fix My Life” on the OWN network when she worked on Slutty Vegan at night. She used paychecks from her full-time job to help pay her employees when money was low, pay for her food truck wrappers, and pay for supplies. “Don’t rush back,” she said. “Having a job while I was an entrepreneur was the best thing that could have happened to me. And I was able to pay employees to do the things I couldn’t do while I was at work.
Cole said that even though she bought the Woodlawn building on South 55th Place two years ago, a delay is not a denial. She is looking forward to opening in the Magic City, where she said she felt the business was going to be big here. of my Slutty Vegans,” she said during a Saturday morning meeting with some black small business owners in Birmingham.
Abra Barnes, owner of Barnes & Associates, moderated Saturday’s business roundtable. She helped Cole close the deal on his building. Mashonda Taylor, executive director of Woodlawn United, was also at the table to help connect Cole to Woodlawn.
All three women are members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., which shows the strength of sisterhood, intentionality, and collaboration.
“Brotherhood brought us together in all different spaces, but right here in Woodlawn, we made magic happen,” Barnes said. “We like to give back. We all want to see our community thrive.
Saturday’s meeting nearly brought Dr. Brandi Rudolph Bolling to tears. Hearing Cole talk about his journey and hit even bigger milestones in business was confirmation for Dr. Bolling to pursue the things on his list.
“The last time I felt that was when my company was born in May 2020. And I have that feeling again, like something big is on the horizon,” said Dr. Bolling. “It’s just solidified, it’s time to do it.”
Barnes said she plans to hold more roundtables like this in the future.