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Pinky Cole Hayes goes from founding Slutty Vegan to entrepreneurial reality show

By Lisa Respers France, CNN

(CNN) — Pinky Cole Hayes makes being nine months pregnant with her third baby, on a book tour, being a philanthropist and running a multimillion dollar business look easy.

If it sounds like a lot, it is, but the founder of the meatless hamburger brand Slutty Vegan is so committed to being successful that she wants to spread that success to others as well.

Cole has been serving as a judge on Revolt TV’s “Bet on Black,” a series which highlights up-and-coming Black entrepreneurs like Cole used to be.

“This is my second season now and when I did it the first time, we had a ball,” she told CNN. “Then this season came back up again, and they reached out and said ‘We’d love to have Pinky on’ and I’m like ‘Okay, I’ll do it.’ Bcause obviously this is my lane, entrepreneurship, and it was a cool way to really be able to showcase my entrepreneurial expertise.”

With Slutty Vegan, Cole has parlayed her past as a former producer for “The Maury Povich Show” into helming a massively successful restaurant chain.

But she hasn’t stopped there.

She’s also the author of “Eat Plants, B*tch: 91 Vegan Recipes That Will Blow Your Meat-Loving Mind” and the more recent “I Hope You Fail: Ten Hater Statements Holding You Back from Getting Everything You Want.”

Not to mention her philanthropic work that has seen her pay off college students’ debt, and a development deal she’s working on in her hometown of Baltimore for a new retail area in a deal that’s supported by Under Armour founder Kevin Plank.

“To look back at where my life has grown since 2018, I know that I’ve done a lot, but I still have a lot of work to do because I want to be the best,” she said.

In that she has a great partner in her husband, Derrick Hayes, who is the founder and CEO of the extremely successful Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks.

Yes – the founder of a vegan restaurant chain is married to the founder of a cheesesteak chain, but it helps that he too is committed to both his business as well as helping other entrepreneurs.

Together, life can be hectic, with Hayes’ two daughters from previous relationships along with their two tots and soon-to-be third child together.

Cole laughs when she mentions that she has “been pregnant since 2020” and will now have three children under the age of three. It’s been challenging, she admits.

“That mom guilt came from the fact that I was always traveling, always in business meetings,” she said. “And yes, I have my village and I’ve got the people that support us holistically, but you know, I was gone a whole lot.”

She said she refuses to “be less of a mom because I want to be more of an entrepreneur, or vice versa.”

“Now I’ve merged both of those worlds together,” she said. “If I’m doing anything with business, nine times out of 10, you’re going to see me with my kids.”

It’s all hard work, which is why Cole feels ideally suited to help advise other business owners. As Slutty Vegan is poised to open a location at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, she said she knows what it means to dream big.

“To start as a mom and pop and now be recognized as a national brand in (one of) the busiest airport in the world, and the biggest airport in the world, is just a really big accomplishment,” she said. “For us to still be in a very sustainable place, considering a lot of businesses are closing their doors and we’re opening more doors, I’m just very grateful.”

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