Having been born and raised in West Oakland, it is safe to say that Ayori Se has developed a deep connection to her native city. Growing up as one of eight children, Ayori’s childhood taught her the value of hard work, and the reciprocity that comes with diligent effort. Introduced to the world of tech through a Basic Programming book her mother gave her when she was 11, Ayori devoured the book, and everything else she could get her hands on. HTML came next, followed by Visual Basic, Javascript and the rest. Developing an undeniable skill set, today Ayori works as a Product Manager for Salesforce. At the same time Ayori is also managing her current enterprise, Pitch Mixer, an entrepreneurial focused event series, aimed at connecting budding entrepreneurs with investors and positive resources. I spoke with Ayori about her upbringing, the value of creativity and her career.

Why do you think entrepreneurship is important?

I think in life we’re all created to do something. I think we tend to think of the word entrepreneur as meaning a person who creates businesses, but really, I define the word as just a person who creates something.

I think we’re all put on this earth with an innate desire to create something bigger than ourselves. We’re not just eating machines. Entrepreneurship is embedded within everyone and some people take that concept to an extreme, like building the pyramids, or even building Apple.

How would you say one finds that creative calling, in the face of also having to make a living?

See, that’s the hard part. I’m still trying to figure that our for myself. But when I was kid I loved spider man. I remember the first book I read out of my own desire was The Anthology of Spider Man, and prior to reading that book I hated reading. But after I read that graphic novel I was like, “I love reading.” And I went on to read everything I could.

It’s awesome you found your passion for reading. It seems like in the conversations I’ve had with people, that sense of passion is the fuel to persevere.

Passion is our driver. That’s what gets us up in the morning. If I woke and knew I wasn’t going to do something fun and exciting, I would just be like, “whatever.” I wouldn’t want to go anywhere.

How have you been able to fuel your entrepreneurial impulses into the creation of Pitchmixer?

I started Pitch Mixer because I really wanted to give people in Oakland an opportunity to see what it’s like to be an entrepreneur wanting to get funded. Some people in Oakland are already doing this. Let’s support them in their journey by giving them access to investors, giving them access to angel investors and advisors. Lets let them pitch their ideas and have everyone else in the community watch. And what that did was that for all the people who watched, they were hoping and supporting the entrepreneurs who were on stage. The audience really wanted them to win and be successful. You sit there, and as you sort of nurse your desire for someone else, you yourself are also able to grow.

That’s a wonderful cycle. Why did you think Oakland is suitable for this type of initiative?

I mean the first thing I’d say is “Why not Oakland?” There’s no reason why Oakland shouldn’t have this already. Yet Oakland didn’t have it. Which meant that there’s a reason to create it.

If you even take it a step further, Oakland is the sister city to Silicon Valley and San Francisco. We have all the diversity that those communities wish they had. We have people that are geniuses with incredible ideas in our midst. And they are often going all the way to Mountain View or San Jose or Palo Alto to work on their ideas that they’re doing. They’re traveling a long way for no reason. Why go out there when you can get that same support in Oakland? Because there is already a community of investors in Oakland. We have everything that we need, we just haven’t put all the pieces together. I believe Oakland is the best example in the world of an innovation ecosystem. And I challenge to say that if Oakland can’t do it, no one can.

That’s awesome.

You know I’m born and raised here too, so I don’t want to leave!

How did your own childhood fuel your career and creative path?

What do they call it? Necessity is the mother of invention? That’s really what it was for me. My mother had eight children and raised us all on her own. We didn’t have a lot of resources. I made all of my clothes by the time I was 14. I started sewing when I was eight. By the time I was 14 all the clothes that I wore were all stuff that I made, because I couldn’t afford to go out to the mall and buy really nice clothes.

That was kind of the start of me realizing that everything that we enjoy in life has an origin with another human being. Everything that we use is made. These things just don’t pop up out of nowhere. So if somebody’s creating it, why can’t I? Why can’t you? When I was growing up that’s how I got things. I got things by making them, and somehow creating them.

And in your adult life you still take on that same drive and necessity to build things?

If I didn’t build things I wouldn’t be able to provide for my daughter. My job is to build software. If I couldn’t build this software I couldn’t ensure that my daughter would have a safe place to live.

I think it’s really important that when we raise our children, that we constantly remind each other that all of what we are enjoying is someone’s labor. And when you realize that, you realize that there’s a person behind everything you enjoy in your life. In a sense, you can become unlocked.

Photo by Tamara Orozco