Pinky Cole, CEO of Slutty Vegan, and Derrick Hayes, CEO of Big Dave Cheesesteaks, proudly graced the January/February cover of Essence and shared their journey to becoming an Atlanta power couple.

Pinky and Derrick have built an empire together, and the key to their success is their love of food and community.

The cover story details how Pinky started her plant-based burger joint in a shared kitchen, in Atlanta, in 2018.

And four years later, how she plans to open up a Slutty Vegan restaurant in a different city every month of 2022.

Pinky Cole, who is originally from Baltimore, is the true definition of a hustler.

Within two years of opening up her first restaurant, Pinky was a multimillionaire with 3 Slutty Vegan restaurants in Atlanta, and she created a new bar and restaurant concept called Bar Vegan, inside Ponce City Market, a high-profile development in Atlanta.

Pinky has established herself as a philanthropist, a humanitarian, and a respected entrepreneur within four years of starting her business.

She admitted that she kept the father of her first born, Derrick Hayes, a secret for a while because he wasn’t in the vegan community.

To be honest, there was a business concern that I am in the vegan community and he’s not. 

But what I realize is who cares what people say. 

Even though we’re different, we can still exist together and still love each other because we are tapped into each other’s hearts. 

And whoever’s got something to say about that can kick rocks.

Derrick is originally from West Philadelphia, and at one point while living in Philly he was facing some charges for selling drugs, but he took advantage of his second chance at life and started Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks.

I got arrested, and I was looking at some time.

I thought, If I get out of this, I’m straightening my life up. 

I remember before walking into the courtroom when I was supposed to get sentenced, my sister called and prayed for me. 

That day was the third time the DA didn’t show up. The judge said he would give the DA five minutes and then he would throw the case out.”

Derrick said those were the longest five minutes of his life.

While I was walking out, the detective who was supposed to testify against me was coming in.

And I realized how close I came to losing my freedom, and now I had to change my life.

Derrick promised his dad, “Big Dave,” who he loss to lung cancer, that he would do great things in life, and now he feels he stayed true to his word.

After a co-sign from the Grammy Award-winning rapper and actress Eve,  who ate at his first restaurant five years ago, Derrick’s Big Dave Cheesesteaks blew up in Atlanta.

Lena Waithe, Meek Mill, and The Migos are also big supporters.

Derrick has become one of Atlanta’s most captivating philanthropists, and cultural leaders as well.

And although Derrick and Pinky are not Atlanta natives they have grown a deep love for the city.

We are able to use this one thing over everything, and that’s love, not just for ourselves, but for the community.

In the early days of the pandemic, Derrick feed frontline workers at nearly 40 hospitals across metro Atlanta.

He recalled that he and Pinky tried to bail out 100 inmates within three days of knowing each other.

Remember we tried to bail out 100 inmates the second, third day of knowing each other?

We couldn’t do it, because it was last minute. And then, sad to say, I think the following week Rayshard Brooks got murdered. 

That was our first time really giving back together. When we did that, I saw how powerfully people resonated with us doing something together. 

So we wound up saying, ‘All right, well, let’s build a business together.

We started a life insurance campaign, where we provide Black men in Atlanta who make $30,000 or less with life insurance that they don’t have to pay for.

And to give back in the name of Rayshard Brooks, we partnered with Clark Atlanta to provide $600,000 worth of scholarships for kids, and a brand-new car and life insurance for his family. 

We bought this house in August of 2021, but before this, in December of 2020, we bought another house as an investment property. And we’re about to buy some more.”

The couple also opened Dinkies, which is a combination of both of their first names, a vegan Philly cheesesteak concept inside Pinky’s Bar Vegan, and this past Thanksgiving they feed the city of Atlanta.

Pinky and Derrick are booked and busy in 2022, and their blessings keep flowing.

We congratulate Pinky Cole and Derrick Hayes on their Essence cover, and we encourage them to keep up the great work that they are doing.

Shout out to our girl, Drea Nicole, who shot the gorgeous photographs for the cover.