Visit House of Intuition’s website, which features “Money Magic” candles, healing crystal sets and more, and you’ll be met with a simple but thought-provoking message: “Your intuition led you here.”
Alex Naranjo and Marlene Vargas are life partners and co-founders of the metaphysical brand, which aims to help people heal, transform and grow with its offerings and classes. With nine shops in California and one in Miami, Florida, it’s safe to say there’s a demand for the brand of spirituality that Naranjo and Vargas are selling — one that they’re eager to meet.
But just 12 years ago, Naranjo and Vargas were in a very different place.
Like many Americans, Naranjo and Vargas lost everything when the housing market took a hit in 2007. But the crisis that upended their lives would ultimately bring them together and change their worldview, all while shaping them into the entrepreneurs they are today.
“It was the breaking point of the material world as we saw it,” Vargas tells Entrepreneur, “and it really pushed us into the spiritual world, which is where we live today. So it was almost like a necessary death of one thing and the rebirth of another.”
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“I thought that was black magic.”
Naranjo and Vargas’ journey to entrepreneurship began with yard sales. The couple sold clothes and furniture to stay afloat during the recession, and when their supply ran out, they took donations or found items on Craigslist, cleaning them up and turning around anything they could.
At the same time, Naranjo and Vargas started to pray at home. Both had left their church years before because, as LGBTQ+-identifying people, they didn’t feel the sense of belonging and connection they craved. But while Vargas continued to uphold the traditional tenets of her faith, Naranjo was busy exploring a new direction.
“Alex burned candles and would pray on the moon, make potions and do vision boarding,” Vargas says. “I was like, ‘Whoa’ — I thought that was black magic. I initially thought, What are you doing? That’s not something within my religious faith. I thought that we were opening up all of these different portals, opening up the doors to a hell that I had been taught about. So I was super afraid at that time.”
But Vargas was reassured by the fact that Naranjo was a “good person” who “was only praying to help [them] pay for the mortgage.” So, once she began to see some positive results, she decided to give it a try herself.
Vargas wasn’t disappointed. “Not only did it give me a sense of calm, but it also redirected my energy from fear — to creativity and hope,” she says. “All of that anxiety and all those things that you’re so afraid of in challenging moments were being replaced with an inner strength and magic I did not know existed within me. It was fueling a different side of me. I was excited. I was like, Oh, we can do this.“
Image credit: Courtesy of House of Intuition
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“We wanted to show people that magic, readings and Tarot weren’t evil.”
Fueled by their resolve and feeling “like superheroes,” Naranjo and Vargas dove deeper into their new practice. Buying scratch-off lottery tickets became a fun date activity. Not only was it “cheaper than a drink at the bar,” but it was also an opportunity to stretch the limits of manifestation — though they wouldn’t have called it that at the time. They dreamed of paying off their parents’ mortgages among other things, but one big, shared goal began to emerge as well.
“We wanted a place where people would feel safe to explore a spiritual practice without feeling like they had to leave their religious beliefs,” Vargas explains, “a place that the church could not fulfill and where magic, readings and Tarot were not seen as evil or deviant. So we were like, Yes — we could have a spiritual detox center.“
At that point, neither Naranjo nor Vargas had encountered the term “manifesting” yet. But they were already doing it, drawing inspiration for their dream from the spiritual stores they visited and analyzed, discussing what they’d do differently with their own.
Then, they were at a crossroads again: Money was getting low.
But a Tarot reading at the end of 2009 renewed their hope. The reader told them she did see a business in their future. The confirmation of that reading — and the intuitive feeling that came with it — was so strong that Naranjo and Vargas immediately began their search for their first store.
They found it in Echo Park via a Craigslist ad, and while the couple admits that “doesn’t sound so magical,” they truly felt it was, as it “provided an instant feeling of confidence that this was the place — as if the Angels themselves had placed that ad.”
Image credit: Courtesy of House of Intuition
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“As humans, we don’t know how powerful we are — once you tap into that power, it can change your life.”
House of Intuition opened in 2010, but, once again, the couple was met with certain challenges.
“We were trying to create a space that was inviting, not intimidating — that could bring to people the sense of calm and accomplishment that we were manifesting within our own lives,” Naranjo says. “We weren’t actually traditional readers or healers per se. However, looking back, I’ve come to realize we were, and that we all are in some way. It was just us trying to share with others that same feeling we were getting.”
The couple came up against “judgment in the craft.” Naranjo and Vargas were considered New Age people because they didn’t come from a line of psychics or mediums, though Vargas maintains we all have psychic abilities within us.
“If I don’t have these traditional magic potions that are years and years old, and I’m pulling it more instinctively from a feeling and an intuition that I have, then [they think] it can’t exist,” Vargas says.
That was difficult in the early days, Vargas admits, but she’s since developed the confidence to stand up to those who question her spiritual prowess.
“Anybody that challenges me and says that my magic isn’t really true because I don’t have certain traditional knowledge or wasn’t taught by an elder, I say to them, Can you explain to me how I created and built 10 stores and five warehouses within a 12-year period of time?” Vargas says.
“I do magic on a daily basis through ritual, magic spells, intention setting and focus,” she continues. “It does materialize from these practices, and I am able to bring these intentions to fruition. Our success is proof. We are all magical beings. Yet, as humans, we don’t realize how powerful we are — once you tap into that power, it can change your life.”
But the secrecy surrounding some of these traditions also complicates things.
“Unfortunately, that’s just the way a lot of traditions are,” Naranjo says. “And I’m not judging, because there is something for everybody in every tradition. But I do think it makes it very difficult for people to understand sometimes, so then it becomes this negative thing because they don’t understand it. It can create a sense of fear because it is human nature to initially fear the unknown.”
Image credit: Courtesy of House of Intuition
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“If we can provide at least some sort of comfort with what we teach them, then that means the world to us.”
Now, as inflation impacts millions and recession fears mount, Naranjo and Vargas are reminded of House of Intuition’s origins — and, this time, they feel prepared for whatever might come their way.
“It feels very familiar to us, like 2007,” Vargas explains. “And we also know we have better tools now to navigate that energy. We know that it’s temporary. We know that our faith, trust and belief are what hold us up. [We’re not] focusing on what we’re not getting, but focusing more on where the lessons are and what we can accomplish in this downtime. Because this downtime will not last forever.”
During this period, they’ve opened up two additional stores and two more warehouses, and they’re expanding the team as they evaluate new register systems and inventory.
But Naranjo and Vargas stress that it’s not just about the products and never has been. In fact, merchandise wasn’t even part of the plan until their community suggested it. With House of Intuition, the couple strives to give people the skills that can help them change their lives for the better, just as they changed theirs.
For example, House of Intuition’s free live sessions on Sundays teach participants about the power of manifestation.
“It’s all knowledge that we want to be able to provide so that people can learn and be empowered with tools of creation for themselves,” Naranjo says. “And if we can provide at least some sense of comfort, ritual and community to people with what we teach them, then that means the world to us.”
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