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Vegan Restaurateur Pinky Cole sits down with Yahoo Finance Live to discuss building inter-generational wealth through LLCs, acquiring funding and growth in the vegan food industry, screening franchise locations, and working with Beyond Meat.
- 800 graduates of Clark Atlanta University got much more than a cap and gown and a diploma when they graduated this year.
PINKY COLE: [INAUDIBLE] Bank to provide every single graduate in this audience with a new LLC and a path to entrepreneurship.
- That graduation speaker is also the founder of booming restaurant chain Slutty Vegan, a vegetarian burger joint. Pinky Cole joins us today. We are thrilled to have her here, along with reporter Brooke DiPalma. Pinky, great to have you.
I was surprised at the reaction at those kids to the word "LLC". I would have thought that would have taken a little more marinating. Why did you decide to gift them the gift of being a business owner and how many have taken you up on it?
PINKY COLE: Well first of all, thanks for having me. That was a lifetime opportunity, not just for them, but for me, to be able to go back to my Alma mater and give them something where they could start their pathway to entrepreneurship. And some people were confused at first, because many people really don't understand the LLC process and how necessary it is to be able to create generational wealth, but a lot of them were very excited because building your LLC is not just a piece of paper, it's really creating generational wealth for you and your family, if you have a good idea. And they were excited about it and I'm happy that I was able to do that.
So many people offer different gifts these days at graduations, but I wanted them to have something that would resonate with their future, especially if they didn't have a plan. So it was a beautiful feeling and more than half of them have already taken me up on the offer and have already gotten registered. And I'm excited to see the rest of them get registered so that they can jump start their pathway as well.
BROOKE DIPALMA: Pinky, it's also been a huge month for Slutty Vegan as well. The company raised $25 million in a series A funding round, bringing just the 4-year-old brand to a $100 million valuation. And so I would like you to break down for us how exactly you plan to use that influx of capital to really build brand awareness. It's just the beginning, really.
PINKY COLE: It is just the beginning. This is the first of many, right? To be a almost four-year-old brand and be able to garner in that much money, to be able to grow Slutty Vegan is really, really big, especially as an African-American woman, to be able to get that injection of capital, one.
Two, To be partnered with Danny Meyers from Shake Shack and Richelieu Dennis from "Essence Magazine", it's really, really big the brand. So we're excited about our growth. Right now, we have five locations, five more locations under construction, and we are just building locations and becoming a household name. As a vegan content, we all know, we've heard it before, this is a billion dollar industry, and to be at the top of that food chain and serving plant-based burgers, fries, and pies, and doing it in a way we've never seen it before, is very exciting. And I'm confident that Slutty Vegan will be a $1 billion brand in the next few years.
- All right. You mentioned Danny Meyer there, and in talking about you, he cited specifically your leadership ability, not just your business sense. What is your leadership strategy?
PINKY COLE: Being crazy. No, I'm very authentic in my approach, right? I am not the average CEO. I am the person that will get in the trenches and I'm just not a delegator.
I am willing to do the work and pull my sleeves up, and I've always been like that since the very beginning. And outside of that, community is very important to me. So I have the Pinky Cole Foundation and I put that at the forefront of the business. So yes, while we get a lot of revenue through the burgers, the pies, and the fries, and people stand in line for hours, we create an ecosystem for people to have a safe space to build generational wealth. So all things entrepreneurship is me, is the foundation and is Slutty Vegan, and that's what separates us as a brand and me as a CEO.
BROOKE DIPALMA: Pinky, recently slutty vegan expanded into Athens, Georgia. You also announced plans to expand into Brooklyn and Harlem. This is not your first go around in Harlem. You had a restaurant there in 2014 that was lost to a grease fire. When you're looking at these new opportunities to expand, how exactly are you eyeing real estate and going back to those places you once tried at?
PINKY COLE: Well, it has to feel right in my spirit, right? We are very intentional and mission driven about what we do and we have a 70%-30% portfolio. So 70% of those properties we purchase, 30% of the properties that we lease. It has to feel right in my spirit.
I told you, I'm not the average CEO. I have to go to a location. It has to fit all the criteria. It has to be in an area that's right in the middle of gentrification, be in a space where we can provide community support when we put our business there, and areas that aren't so attractive to developers at that time, so that we can raise the value of the community. If they check those boxes, then that's somewhere where Slutty Vegan is going to be.
Back in the day, it used to be location, location, location. We don't think about location, location first, we think about intention, intention, intention, and it is always work. And as far as a homecoming, I had a restaurant, lost it, lost everything.
So to be able to go back to the place where I started, it's very monumental to me and I hope that people are just as excited about us coming to Slutty Vegan as I am excited about being there. So looking forward, our grand opening is coming soon. And hopefully, if you guys are in New York, you can make it out when we announce it.
- We are in New York and I'll pledge this. We will be there as long as you will and I assume that will happen. Also in this space is Kim Kardashian, who's now the chief taste consultant for Beyond. What do you make of her entrance into the space and how do you separate yourself from some of the competition?
PINKY COLE: I actually love it. And there is no separation. We actually announced today our partnership with Beyond Meat as well. So obviously, we're not the chief taste officer, but we have a really budding relationship with Beyond Meat.
We just announced our soy-free options on our menu today, which is a big deal for us, because we've never had soy-free options before. So we are in the Beyond Meat family with Kim Kardashian. So we don't look at it as competition, we just look at it as another way for us to be able to partner with really, really good people.
And quite frankly, when I started being vegan eight years ago, I used to get only eat fries and a side salad. And now to see so many big companies offering plant-based options to the masses makes me feel good and it gives me options to be able to say, OK, I don't have to eat rice cakes all day long. I can eat real food and enjoy this real food and share it with my friends and family.
- Pinky Cole, restaurateur, we will see you in Brooklyn. All right?
PINKY COLE: Thank you. See you guys soon.
- All right. Congratulations. Thanks so much.