Baltimore native Pinky Cole is the founder and CEO of Slutty Vegan, a restaurant chain known for its approachable, plant-based hamburgers. Cole will return to Baltimore to serve as the keynote speaker for Executive Alliance’s Women of Excellence event. Credit: Courtesy of Slutty Vegan

By Megan Sayles
AFRO Business Writer

Executive Alliance is set to host its annual Women of Excellence event on Oct. 26 at Martin’s West in Baltimore. The event, open to the public, assembles local women professionals and executives to network and celebrate one another. 

Pinky Cole, Baltimore native and founder of Slutty Vegan, will be the keynote speaker for this year’s event.

“Women of Excellence is meant to connect, inspire and engage people. It brings together about 800 business leaders from around the area,” said Rebecca Snyder, executive director of Executive Alliance. “It’s been a really big part of the Executive Alliance experience. It’s basically a big cocktail party, and then we get energized by our national speaker.” 

Established in 1992, Executive Alliance is a membership organization comprising nearly 100 senior-level women executives across all sectors throughout Maryland. The organization leverages education, advocacy and mentoring to help women advance in their careers. 

 “To be able to come back home is so meaningful. I want to walk away with the women feeling inspired, empowered and feeling like they can conquer the world.”

Its other premier event is the Honor Roll Awards, which recognizes local companies and nonprofits that have at least 30 percent of their executive positions and board seats held by women. Applications for the awards are currently being taken through November with the ceremony set for March. 

For Women of Excellence, Snyder said the organization decided to choose Cole because she exemplifies the power of women pursuing their goals and rejecting fears of failure. 

“We wanted to have someone with a Maryland connection. Pinky was born and raised in Baltimore so she has strong roots to our community,” said Snyder. “Pinky brings an energy and a vision that says, ‘This is what I want to do, and I’m going to make it happen.’ I think that’s a really inspiring and transformative view that not only women but our members and constituency need right now.” 

Cole grew up on Cedonia Avenue in East Baltimore. The hometown hero started Slutty Vegan out of her two-bedroom apartment in 2018 while living in Atlanta. 

Cole went from selling her plant-based burgers via Instagram to owning and operating multiple restaurants across Atlanta, Ga., Alabama, Texas and New York. Today, Slutty Vegan is a multimillion-dollar company. In 2024, another location is set to open in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. 

“The growth and evolution of the brand has been a beautiful, unfolding story. As the anchor of something that is so beautiful, sometimes I have to pinch myself because I didn’t imagine my company would grow in the magnitude that it has grown,” said Cole. “We have a brand people know, love and respect, and I’m here for the long haul. Slutty Vegan will soon be a household name globally.” 

Cole said being chosen as the keynote speaker for Women in Excellence is a big deal for her, particularly because she gets to return home for the address. She hopes she’s able to instill a sense of empowerment in the women through her speech.

“I do a lot of speaking engagements, but to be able to come back home is so meaningful. I want to walk away with the women feeling inspired, empowered and feeling like they can conquer the world,” said Cole. “There’s already going to be enough successful women in the audience so they don’t need my stories about how to be successful. It’s just an added layer of sisterhood and encouragement to show them that anything is possible.” 

Megan Sayles is a Report for America corps member.