Some CEOs spend years cementing their fortune before planting their philanthropic flag. Not Pinky Cole. In 2019, four months after cutting the ribbon outside her first Atlanta restaurant, she launched a charitable foundation aimed at bridging the generational wealth gap in communities of color. Its mission was rooted in her own success story: In half a year, she’d taken her meatless burger concept, Slutty Vegan, from a delivery-only operation to a cool corner shop with celebrity fans and snaking lines.
“The Pinky Cole Foundation was just a way to formalize my wanting to help people,” says Cole, who grew up in East Baltimore, where her Jamaican-born mother often opened their home to other Jamaican families in need. The 501(c)(3) doesn’t have a large staff or donor list—just a responsive email address when approached with a need. “We really get in the trenches,” she says.
Its hyperlocal impact has included paying tuition for 30 students at Clark Atlanta University (Cole’s alma mater) and purchasing a car and life insurance for the family of Rayshard Brooks, who was fatally shot by Atlanta police in 2020. Cole partnered with Steve Harvey to pay utility bills for struggling Atlantans and co-founded Square 1, an initiative to provide life insurance to 25,000 Black men by 2023. “I can almost guarantee you, the more Black men who have life insurance policies, there will be less Black men dying in America,” she says.
The foundation also hosts networking events called Entrepreneurs Anonymous “for anyone on the grind” says Cole, who remains knee-deep in realizing her own entrepreneurial dreams. She now owns four local Slutty Vegan locations, plus Ponce City Market’s Bar Vegan, and is expanding the brand nationally. Speaking of knee-deep: She’s pregnant with her second child, with her firstborn not yet a year old. She credits her family for supporting her lightning-speed ambitions. “I just love my business. This is who I am. I pray I never wake up one day and it feels like work, because then I’ve got to start creating some balance.”