Restaurateurs Pinky Cole and Derrick Hayes were the Keynote Speakers for the 3rd Annual STEAM & Dream Summit in Milwaukee

Inspiring Youth to Dream

STEAM & Dream MKE was created to combat the inaccessibility to computers and science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) education faced by youth in the city of Milwaukee during the COVID-19 pandemic. STEAM & Dream was made possible through a partnership between Young Enterprising Society (YES), Discovery World, Sherman Phoenix, the Milky Way Tech Hub, and American Family Insurance.

The summit introduces youth in underserved communities to skills in STEAM while allowing them to participate in hands-on learning experiences in a range of interests and topics. 

In addition to Milwaukee, STEAM & Dream Summits appear in Chicago, Phoenix, and Atlanta.  

June 21, 2024, marked the 3rd Annual STEAM & Dream Summit in Milwaukee and was geared toward students 12-17 years old. Participants learned from young professionals about important life skills like financial literacy and explored storytelling and content creation. 

YES Co-founder Khalif El-Amin said the feedback from last year’s summit helped shape this year’s.

“Internally, I think it’s better. We’re always looking to improve,” said El-Amin. “There’s a lot more topics this year that related to the youth, so just giving them a lot more relatability but still exposing them to a number of different topics and avenues.”

This year the youth summit welcomed 87 attendees.

Slutty Vegan and Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks

While the STEAM and Dream Summit focused on Milwaukee’s youth, a portion of the event was dedicated to adults where they were invited to attend a Q&A with Pinky Cole, founder of Slutty Vegan, and Derrick Hayes, founder of Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks to learn more about their success and experiences in the restaurant world. 

Although the pair are married, they both independently own and run separate ventures. Cole started her restaurant chain Slutty Vegan in 2018 in Atlanta and has grown the brand to over a 100 million dollar valuation with her fresh takes on vegan recipes. She has since opened locations in New York and Texas. 

“Slutty Vegan is a billion-dollar brand, not because of the money in the bank, it’s because of the mindset and energy around it,” said Cole. “What I do is I help people reimagine food in a way that they’ve never seen it before.”

Hayes is the owner of Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks. The restaurateur was born and raised in West Philadelphia and started his chain in 2014 in Atlanta, bringing his childhood classic to the city. The brand has begun franchising outside of Georgia, opening locations in North and South Carolina. 

“Me coming from Philly, how I did it was, you have to get away from certain people and I changed my atmosphere,” said Hayes. “There’s no way you can grow if nobody in the room is trying to grow, so in order to grow you have to get around people that’s smarter than you, that may think differently than you so you can get different perspectives.

Small Business Pitch Competition

At the end of the Q&A session, four local small businesses had the opportunity to give a one-minute business pitch in front of the two restauranteurs in hopes of earning a grant. 

Favoryte, a Green-Bay-based natural body care business, won the competition with earnings of $1,500, and an additional $500 was awarded to BuddahLove, a Milwaukee vegan soul food, and catering business for being the fan favorite. 

During the Q&A, Cole and Hayes said that philanthropy was a big part of their businesses and awarded all of the pitch participants a month of free mentorship. 

“Whether you meet people from social media or banking, anybody you can get that information to better yourself and help you out because a lot of us, this is our first time at entrepreneurship and at success,” said Hayes. 

To watch the Carvd N Stone video interview with Pinky Cole and Derrick Hayes click here.

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