Black love is more than a trendy hashtag or glitzy label—it’s revolutionary. It’s a binding force that breaks ancestral curses by unifying a couple whose love is built on the intersection of Blackness and love. It’s one of the reasons why the love between Slutty Vegan CEO Pinky Cole and Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks CEO Derrick Hayes is so inspirational. 

While they have now amalgamated into the power couple we see today, it started off on simpler terms, with Pinky sliding into Derrick's DMs. 

“I slid in his DMs, and it wasn't just like a regular slide-in; someone busted the windows of his restaurant during the George Floyd riots, and as a community leader, I'm socially responsible. I saw him as someone else in the community doing what I do, but who was having a terrible experience at the time. So I reached out to him to see if he needed some support," says Cole. "I also thought he was cute. He said he didn't need any help, but he wanted to connect just as local entrepreneurs in the city because he was watching me and saw all the great things that I was doing and vice versa.  We connected over lunch at a vegan restaurant, and then our friendship blossomed from there. It went from friendship to relationship to engagement to two kids. And, now here we are with a whole tribe and about to get married. I never expected for it to look like this.”

It’s safe to say that their first date went well, given that this union has since spawned increased success in entrepreneurship, a beautiful family and much more. What shouldn’t be lost at the core of it all is the Black love that sustains their relationship and family. For Hayes, one of the most powerful aspects of it is getting to show others the beauty of it.

Derrick Hayes and Pinky Cole during their engagement photo session. Image: Erick Robinson.

“Black love represents a lot of things. First, Black love represents what you can show other people when it comes to the culture because you can finally show a good representation of what love means to a new generation through your relationship. I think that's the most powerful thing in the world, and I think that's the biggest thing that it represents because when two people are in love, and they can empower and unite different cultures throughout the way, that's bigger than anything," Hayes shares. "That's bigger than you and that person; that's bigger than the universe because you actually transcend what love is about, and we weren't taught that.”

When it comes to entrepreneurship, both Cole and Hayes have mastered it outside the relationship. But together, they're a force to be reckoned with. The Slutty Vegan CEO feels that since they’re both so aligned with one another, it makes it easier to discuss business matters just as they’d do with any other topics.

"We can make money together and have beautiful babies together, so it's a win-win on every single level."

Pinky Cole, Slutty Vegan CEO

“The love is cool, the relationship is great, and we're parents to four beautiful children. That's my friend, and when you have a friend and a partner, we can literally talk about anything and travel the world together. We can make money together and have beautiful babies together, so it's a win-win on every single level. He never gets tired of me talking about business, and I never get tired of him talking about the restaurant and the ebbs and flows of growing and scaling the business," shares Cole. "It's because I'm doing the same exact thing at the same exact time. We literally get to be each other's springboard, and you don't really get that in relationships where two people aren't in the same field.”

It’s easy to look at the power couple with aspirations of achieving such a storied love, but like all relationships, it requires work from both partners to sustain it. When asked about the keys to having and maintaining a successful relationship, the Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks CEO readily admits that transparent conversations—that they’ve both deemed a “sesh"(short for a therapy session)—have been their saving grace.

“If something is aggravating one of us or causing tension, we handle it right then and there. In relationships, a lot of the time, people go through things because they let it build up, and they wait to explode. At that point, a lot of stuff comes out that they didn't want to come out. So we have this thing where we’re like, 'All right, let's have a sesh.' We have a heart-to-heart, but the sesh is not about right and wrong. The sesh is about leaving with an understanding that this bothered the person," shares Hayes. "It's about coming to agreements on what the problem was, so you all can get over it instead of letting it build up, and I think that's the biggest thing in our relationship.”

The happy entrepreneurial couple. Image: Erick Robinson.

Aside from being highly successful businesspeople, Cole and Hayes are also proud parents. For Cole, it’s abundantly important for them to equip their children with confidence.

“What I want to give our children is confidence. I want them to know that they can walk in any room with their head held high, and they can have the ability to speak with conviction every time they open up their mouth; to have the strength to be able to get the things that they want using their mouthpiece. That level of confidence will allow them to be successful in whatever career they want to be in, whether they want to own Big Dave's Cheesesteaks or Slutty Vegan, or if they want to start their own business," Hayes says. "If they decide to want to do something totally out of the box, just know that the confidence that they learned from their parents will be able to transcend in any career field that they're in, and they will be the disruptor.”

"When I look at the Black family, I'm looking at intelligent kids. I'm looking at Black men teaching each other how to be better because of the hundreds of years that got taken away from us."

Derrick Hayes, Big Dave's Cheesesteaks CEO

As the two get closer and closer to wedded bliss, Hayes feels that the Black family represents overcoming the odds to impact the next generation.

“The way I look at the Black family is having a two parent household, being able to provide the resources to their kids that they're creating. Also being able to have jobs and careers they can uphold, so they can build generational wealth. When I look at the Black family, I'm looking at intelligent kids. I'm looking at Black men teaching each other how to be better because of the hundreds of years that were taken away from us," Hayes explains. "We’re now suppressing all of that and saying this is what our communities look like when we get the chances and resources. This is the new Black family, at least that’s the way I look at it.”