🗣 Locals to Know: Meet Seiko Sisco, chemist-turned-maker of adorable goods

Today’s Locals to Know makes some of the cutest baby goods you ever saw. Seiko Sisco is a chemistry Ph.D. who now runs Waku Waku Baby, a boutique baby goods business that purveys adorable slipper sets, bibs, burp cloths and much more. “Waku waku” means happy and excited in Japanese, and we’re happy and excited to introduce you to Seiko!

Tell us about your background and Waku Waku Baby!

I am a Ph.D. chemist turned stay-at-home-mom turned creative small business owner. In 2019, I founded Waku Waku Baby, a handmade baby gifts shop that sells baby shoes and accessories that are cute, comfy and capture the magic of childhood. “Waku Waku” means to be happy and excited in Japanese; I wanted the shop name to reflect my Japanese roots and the feeling I get when I sew new baby items. Since launching Waku Waku Baby, I have dreamt of designing my own fabric patterns from my hand drawn illustrations. This year, I finally took the big leap to learning surface pattern design. I am so excited to showcase a sneak peek of my debut fabric patterns in collaboration with Waku Waku Baby this holiday season!

Wax poetic for a second and tell us: what brings you most alive about this city?

The cityscapes and naturescapes around Pittsburgh spark my creativity (thus make me come alive). I love the hills and all the different neighborhoods in and around Pittsburgh that have their own unique personalities. The steep and narrow roads remind me a little bit of Japan, where I was born. I also love admiring the beautiful architecture of old houses. There are so many beautiful parks and trails everywhere around the city — it seems that every year I find a new hidden gem! Every time I drive through the tunnel and am greeted by the beautiful bridges and cityscape of Pittsburgh I feel immediate joy that I can call this city my home.

What’s your favorite Pittsburgh memory?

My favorite Pittsburgh memory is the first time I felt like I found “my place” in this city. On April 27, 2019, I participated in Show and Sell, a spring pop up market hosted by Handmade Arcade. I had just launched Waku Waku Baby a few months prior and was brand new to the creative community. I was lucky enough to have been selected as one of the 30 emerging makers for this first-time event that was held at Construction Junction. 

I truly did not know what to expect but it was the first time I sold my handmade products to people I didn’t know. The response was overwhelmingly positive, and this event changed the course of my life. The organizers cared for my success, my fellow makers and artists were inspiring, and the attendees were the most kind and wonderful group of people – some of whom I still keep in touch to this day. The success of this event gave me the confidence to pursue my creative dreams and gave me a sense that there is a place for me here.

Baby shoes, a bib and cloths with a happy sun pattern.
Seiko’s designs coming to life.

If you could eat only one meal from a local restaurant for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Oh, this is a tough one! Ask me again in a year lol… Ok, so for the last year I’ve been craving a big bowl of vegan pho (I could easily eat pho for the rest of my life), but it’s been difficult to bring our kids to restaurants and enjoy a peaceful meal, so this craving of mine has been put on hold. I’m in the process of making a list of all the pho places I have yet to try out (recommendations welcome)! Until then I have to go with Face Down in Grits from Onion Maiden from a few years ago — I hope they still have it on their menu!

Outside of the obvious stop above, share your other top three destinations for where you’d go on your perfect Pittsburgh day.

Walk around the Strip District and soak in the beautiful cityscape and local shops, have fun at the Children’s Museum, and stop by the Shaler North Hills Library (gotta give a shoutout to our kids favorite library) on our way home.

What’s your favorite local social media account (Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, or etc.) to follow and why?

I recently had an opportunity to collaborate with Handmade Arcade and their photographer partner this year, Chancellor Humphrey of @keeppittsburghdope. I love following Chancellor’s account because it’s such a genuine and real representation of what Pittsburgh is about. It’s so true that people are what makes this city unique and beautiful, and I love how Chancellor captures this with captivating photography. I also highly recommend all handmade business owners to checkout @happeninghands by my dear friend and business coach, Kiana Jones. She offers uplifting advice and essential resources to keep you thinking like a CEO of your business while feeling like you have a friend right by your side!

Baby shoes with different pastel patterns lined up in a row.
Eek! So cute!!! (Photos courtesy of Seiko Sisco)

If you could give any one piece of advice to locals, what would it be?

Shopping for gifts this holiday season? For every five purchases you make, please consider making one of them from a local small business. Your dollar goes further when you support small businesses (I am proof!), and more of that dollar stays within the local economy which is a win-win for everyone! If you love shopping in person, my favorite gift shops in town include love, Pittsburgh, Blue Snail Gift Shop, Wildcard, and Contemporary Craft. I am also honored to be invited back as a vendor to the Handmade Arcade Holiday Market (the largest holiday market in this region) this year which will be held Dec. 2-3 at the Convention Center. It is a fantastic place to shop if you love artisan, handmade, and one-of-a-kind gifts. I’d love to see you there!

How does Pittsburgh help you do what you do/influence your work?

Everything about Pittsburgh influences my work. I love being inspired by the ordinary everyday things and the memories I create with my kids everyday while we explore the streets and trails of Pittsburgh. I also think that Pittsburgh is special because of the immense support for creative entrepreneurs and the arts. A few programs and organizations that have supported my work include: entrepreneurial readiness programs coordinated by Chatham University’s Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship (CWE) and Bridgeway Capital’s Creative Business Accelerator (CBA), and artisan markets organized by Handmade Arcade, I Made It! Markets, and McCandless Crossing. There is a strong network, enthusiasm, and understanding among Pittsburghers that it’s important to support creative artistic work and local shops which I am so grateful for.

What’s an unpopular opinion you have about the city?

The Pittsburgh left [is difficult]. It’s been 8 years and I’m finally getting the hang of it (…maybe).

What are you most looking forward to this year?

I am debuting as a surface pattern designer this year! I am so excited about releasing a sneak peek of my first fabric collection this holiday season in collaboration with Waku Waku Baby, my handmade baby gifts shop. The fact that I now have my original hand drawn drawings on wearable baby products is truly a dream come true. I will release the first few exclusive baby shoes and bibs on my website at wakuwakubaby.com this November and they will also be available to shop in person at Handmade Arcade on Dec 2 and 3!

Follow Waku Waku Baby on Instagram at @wakuwakubaby or shop Seiko’s work at wakuwakubaby.com.

Know of a person or organization that we ought to feature? Email hello@theincline.com with the subject line “Locals to Know” with your suggestion, and you could see their name in an upcoming newsletter!