Running a business is far from easy. From coming up with an initial concept to acquiring investors, being an entrepreneur is serious work. There are thousands of entrepreneurs in the United States, but some especially stand out. For example, Slutty Vegan founder Pinky Cole has made her mark in the vegan space. The Black female vegan entrepreneur started Slutty Vegan in 2018. Six years later the fast-food vegan chain has fourteen brick and mortar locations. But Cole isn’t stopping there. She is a big believer in mentoring and investing in Black vegan entrepreneurs like Angela Simmons, who started a vegan funnel cake company called Angela’s Cakes. Simmons was inspired to start Angela’s Cakes when Cole initially came up with the idea. Now Angela’s Cakes is operated as a partner through Pinky Cole and Slutty Vegan.

Simmons only had kind words to say about her mentor and business partner Pinky Cole. “Pinky and I had a relationship prior and then we talked. Pinky was the part of the brainchild behind Angela’s Cakes. I talked to her and she had an idea. We collaborated and came up with Angela’s cakes. It’s really important to be behind one another when it comes to the different ideas we have. I’m a really big believer in collaboration,” she told me.

“It’s always great to get advice from someone who’s done it before. I’m really big on getting advice from people who have done it successfully, who have great input. Pinky is a mentor. This is what she does in the food world. This is my first go at being in the food space. Even though I love it, it’s much different when you’re actually in it from a business perspective. Make sure you have a mentor in that space, and, if not, look for one,” she said. And Cole is one of Simmons’ biggest champions. I spoke with Slutty Vegan founder Pinky Cole about what she believes is the secret sauce to running a successful business.

Emphasize Marketing and Branding

Cole isn’t in the food industry for the money, although according to her, Slutty Vegan is valued at nearly one hundred million dollars. She believes that marketing is the voice of a business– and she isn’t wrong. The Atlanta based entrepreneur has plenty of solid advice for up and coming entrepreneurs, especially those in the vegan space. She stressed the importance of having marketing and branding that really touches people. “You want to be able to tell a story to the people who are watching. Telling their story will make people come into your business and support it. That’s the reason why we get people to come through the doors and support our brand,” she said.

She believes that authenticity is a huge part of marketing and branding. Cole, who is a leading figure in the vegan space, is responsible for over a dozen Slutty Vegan locations. She wants entrepreneurs to know that she wouldn’t be where she is today if she hadn’t remained true to herself. “Authenticity is the best policy. If you can really be yourself, be honest, be open with your audience, then you build up the community. They’ll support whatever it is that you’re doing if you’re doing it right. If you do it wrong, they’re going to support you because they fell in love with you and your story,” she told me.

Build Professional Relationships

According to Cole this is one of the most important parts of running a business. Without relationships entrepreneurs aren’t able to engage with potential investors, partners, or customers. The Slutty Vegan founder has leveraged her relationships that have skyrocketed her into serious success. In any field professionals should be forming relationships. From chatting over coffee to swapping ideas over sushi, building relationships can change the trajectory of your business or career entirely. “Relationships really help to take your brand to the next level. You really have to build relationships with people. And you know, sometimes women especially, don’t always want to navigate networking, but networking helps you get into spaces that you weren’t familiar with,” Cole said. When I asked her how her partnership with Simmons came about she said the following.

“I gave her the idea of doing a dessert. We both landed at the funnel cake concept. I’m like this was it. This is your brand. We started building with each other. I like her because she’s a dreamer. She doesn’t even need my help. She’s really taken this dream– she’s done such a great job. She sells funnel cakes in a couple of different markets. She does not stop at one opportunity; she always tries to find ways to bring things to the next level,” she told me. “It’s important for more vegan entrepreneurs, women entrepreneurs, and vegan Black woman entrepreneurs to come together so that we can really create a community. When you think about the vegan movement, you want to look to us because we create a context that people love and appreciate. I’m encouraging all of the dreamers to really act on that idea, not just sit on it. You never know you may be creating a multimillion-dollar brand,” she said.

Practice Financial Literacy

Business owners should always be aware of the current state of their finances. Cole suggests that entrepreneurs be cautious about who handles their money. “People will take advantage of you. If you do not know the information, somebody will teach it to you the way that they want it. It may not always be genuine and it may not always be honest. And it may not always come with integrity. You have to know your business. You have to know your brand. You have to know your numbers. You have to know what’s happening in your business so that nobody else can control what you created. That’s why financial literacy is so important,” she told me. She also has great advice for business owners when it comes to being willing to learn.

“Always be a student in the business. You should always be wanting to learn. The most important thing that I’ve captured through all of that [founding Slutty Vegan] is I am never going to take my hand off the wheel. Being a woman entrepreneur is a lot of pressure. So many women are standing on my shoulders, standing beside me, and standing behind me that expect me to be great,” said Cole. So, now that you know what the secret is to running a successful business, I’ll ask you this. What are you doing to use your privilege as a business leader to make the world a better place? Cole believes giving back is a necessary part of running any business. However, she is so much more than a business owner. Pinky Cole is paving the way for entrepreneurs from marginalized groups. She is breaking barriers in the food industry– and she’s just getting started.

Pinky Cole Says This Is The Secret Sauce To Running A Business
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