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From Food Truck to Commencement Speaker: The Inspiring Journey of Slutty Vegan's Owner

Slutty Vegan Owner to Speak at Savannah State University Commencement
Slutty Vegan Owner to Speak at Savannah State University Commencement

Savannah, GA – “Pinky” Cole Hayes, founder of the immensely popular Atlanta-based Slutty Vegan restaurant chain and 2023 TIME100 Next honoree, is returning to Savannah State University (SSU) this spring to deliver the commencement speech to the class of 2024.

Cole Hayes visited the university in the fall as part of her book tour for her autobiographical book, “I Hope You Fail,” which details the trials and tribulations she overcame to become the successful owner of 14 restaurants in Georgia, New York, Texas and Alabama in just six years. As the title implies, success has not been easy. Her father was sentenced to prison the day she was born. Her first restaurant burned down. Just as her innovative plant-based burger restaurant venture was gaining popularity, a pandemic rocked the world.

“I had the privilege of presenting my book at Savannah State and personally shared with students how some of my most significant failures transformed into invaluable lessons and triumphs,” Cole Hayes said. “I'm thrilled for the chance to address the Class of 2024 as they embark on their next life chapters.”

Savannah State Interim President Cynthia Alexander said the university invited Cole Hayes back because the message of her book resonated with SSU students.

“I think her life story represents the path that many of our students have taken just to get to Savannah State,” Alexander said. “As these students navigate the path of life they will have successes and struggles, but just like Mrs. Cole Hayes, they need to know they can conquer and thrive in the midst of challenges.”

“Thriving in Change” will be the theme of Cole Hayes’s speech on Friday, May 3, 2024 at T.A. Wright Stadium, 4437 Skidaway Rd. Cole will address 350 SSU graduates, the largest graduating class in the last several years.

“It is always an honor to speak to the next generation of leaders,” Cole Hayes said, “and I am excited to be the commencement speaker for the Savannah State class of 2024 for that very reason – they are some of our fiercest leaders of tomorrow.”

About SSU: Established in 1890, Savannah State University is the first public historically black college and university in Georgia and the first institution of higher learning in the city of Savannah. Students select majors from 30 undergraduate and five graduate programs in four colleges — Business Administration, Education, Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, and Sciences and Technology. Learn more by visiting savannah

About Pinky Cole: "Pinky" Cole Hayes is a Jamaican-American restaurateur, author, community activist, and owner of the Slutty Vegan restaurant chain and Bar Vegan in Atlanta, Georgia. Cole Hayes is a culinary disruptor in the industry, transforming America's view of plant-based fast food and striving to make plant-based eating delicious, accessible, and enjoyable for vegans and flexitarians alike. 

In addition to her work in the food industry, Pinky is also a philanthropist and head of The Pinky Cole Foundation, which is committed to uplifting marginalized and underrepresented communities and breaking the cycle of poverty by providing access to resources and education to pursue their entrepreneurial goals. Pinky has been named to Restaurant Hospitality’s 2021 Power List, Forbes Next 1000, Entrepreneur Magazine’s Top 100 Powerful Women in Business List, LA Wire Influential Women of 2020, PETA’s 2021 Most Beautiful Vegan Celebrities List and Atlanta Business Chronicle’s 40 Under 40 List. Most recently, she has been included in the 2023 TIME100 Next List. 

In November 2022, Cole Hayes released her first cookbook, Eat Plants, B*tch — a compilation of 91 vegan recipes plus a selection of tips and tricks for vegan cooking and other plant-based substitutes — that is now available for purchase online and at bookstores across the country. Pinky’s latest book with HarperCollins Leadership called I Hope You Fail (October 2023), details how her failures have driven her successes. To learn more about Pinky Cole-Hayes, visit and follow @pinkycole on Instagram and @pinky907 on X (formerly Twitter).


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