Patti Safian, our NJMOMpreneur of the Week, lived in Los Angeles and worked in the film industry when she fully embraced alternative healing practices to traditional medicine. A painful bout with shingles led her to rethink wellness, and she immersed herself in yoga, becoming an instructor with a star-studded client roster. Eventually, she moved to New York and delved deeper into other wellness practices, putting herself through acupuncture school and getting board certified. But it would take a complication in her son’s birth and friends struggling with infertility for her to consider launching a new career utilizing her knowledge and helping women have successful pregnancies. In 2009 Patti founded her business, the New Jersey Acupuncture Wellness, Massage, and Fertility Center, aka The Wellness Place, where she specializes in acupuncture for pain management, anxiety and other issues, and is also a Fertility Coach employing practices and treatments from eastern and western approaches for women and men. We caught up with this busy Montclair mom of two to discuss how a healer set her on a path to discover other wellness practices, the most rewarding part of helping patients, and the one-of-a-kind local bar where she goes to recharge (think crystals, not alcohol).
Please tell me a little bit about your family. My early life started traditional enough, but when I was six, my parents divorced, and my sister and I moved to Riverdale in the Bronx with our mom. When she left us for a cult a few years later, I moved back to Westchester with my dad and never lived with my mom again. After college, I lived in Los Angeles when I met my husband, Evan Cutler. We’ve been married for 25 years and have two children, Will, 21, and Mia, 18. We love sharing our Montclair home with our dog, Bix, and our two cats, Patches, and Oreo.
What is your career background and what led you to become a Fertility Coach? I majored in Radio, TV, and Film at Northwestern University and then transferred to Barnard College, Columbia University, where I majored in English and minored in Theater. After getting my degree, I moved out to Los Angeles and worked in the film industry on feature films, like Enemies, A Love Story, Sleeping with the Enemy, Mambo Kings, and Sugar Hill, when I came down with shingles and felt terrible. I found a healer who did multiple things to diagnose me, and through Bieler’s Broth and other remedies, I began to get better and was able to work again. Because of my mom, I’d grown up with yoga and began to immerse myself in it, eventually becoming an instructor. I returned to the east coast for a job and continued teaching yoga in New York to put myself through acupuncture school–Brad Pitt, Steve Martin, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman are just a few familiar names of those that have practiced with me. Later, when I was in labor with my son, the midwives that were helping me allowed me to labor for much longer than I should have, and I started hemorrhaging and had to be rushed to the hospital. I also had some friends experiencing fertility issues, and their doctors weren’t picking up on why they couldn’t get pregnant. I knew I could do something about it, and it helped me realize that a combination of eastern and western medicine would be the smartest and safest way to move forward in my own life and in my future business.
What surprised you about running your business? The fact is that when you own a business, there’s a lot of “business work” that needs to be done. I’m more of a “creative type” than a “business type,” so I have staff to handle things like billing, accounting, and scheduling so that I can do what I’m good at and the business runs smoothly and efficiently. Even if you’re not proficient in a particular area, you can still move forward from there if you have the proper support around you. I know what I’m good at, understand my limitations, accept them and move forward from there.
What is the most rewarding thing about working with infertility patients? It’s gratifying to help people with something very significant to them and get to do work that fulfills me. Many women say they would not have their baby if it weren’t for me—knowing that is the best feeling in the world. Many of the women who come to me have had numerous miscarriages before seeing me. Depending on the person, I ensure they get the proper medical tests, and I don’t give up until we figure out what’s causing the issue. Putting a bandaid on something and hoping for the best is not the way to go—you need to know the root cause of a problem to move forward with open eyes and plan accordingly. I consider things like autoimmune, blood clotting, egg quality, and other issues to get to the bottom of why a patient is having trouble bringing a baby into the world. And I’ll often have them add in yoga, acupuncture, Ayurvedic and Fertility massage, nutrition, supplements, and herbs, which can all play a role in their outcome. We have a safe, loving, and supportive environment for every patient. We also treat Male Factor Infertility since Chinese medicine is very effective at helping improve sperm count and motility.
Patti, with her daughter, Mia, on vacation in the Riviera Maya.
Does your family ever get involved in your business? Evan is my biggest cheerleader. Whether emotional support or something more hands-on, he’s always there for me. And Will and Mia are very proud of what I do and, from time to time, will get a massage or acupuncture treatment.
What do you hope your children learn from seeing you as an entrepreneur? They do know how much I love my career, so I hope they know the value of working and doing something that you love, even if it’s outside your comfort zone.
What’s next for your business? I’m starting to explore the idea of adding some form of retreats to my business. It would involve getting away, eating well, and incorporating other health, relaxation, and connection elements.
What are some of your favorite things to do in NJ with your family? My husband, Evan, is a birder, and DeKorte Park is an extraordinary place for bird watching and those that want to be in nature. The Raptor Trust, where injured, wild birds are rehabilitated, is another great place to visit. Also, we’ve always loved Asbury Park, and when the kids were little, we’d stay overnight and visit Silverball Retro Arcade. Another not-to-be-missed place is King Spa & Sauna, where children as young as ten can go. They have many different kinds of saunas, baths, and body treatments, so you can’t help but feel relaxed and revived, and Sojo Spa, a spa and bath house, is not to be missed. Lastly, our dog, Bix, is a big fan of Brookdale Park, so we take him there every chance we get.
What are some of your favorite NJ businesses? I’ve always loved Thought in Motion, a waterbar with crystal charged water, ice, elixirs, and more, plus they have really interesting workshops there. Montclair Kundalini Yoga’s online classes got me through the pandemic. It’s based on breathing and movement and is slightly different from most people’s traditional yoga. And I love that Parcel exists, and there are shops as beautiful and magical as this in the world. Marcel Bakery & Kitchen and Samba are two of my very favorite local restaurants. Marcel is an Israeli restaurant with the most delicious chicken dish and fabulous sides. Samba is a favorite because it’s out-of-this-world great Brazilian food, which takes me back to my years as a high school exchange student living in Brazil. It’s also gluten-free, which is how I eat.
What is your best advice for a MOMpreneur just starting? Follow what it is that you love. If you have an idea, don’t think you can’t do it—go for it, start slowly and build from there. And keep in mind the importance of location so that you can be near your family and any other things that are important to you–it’s the best way to manage everything that you need to care of.