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Meet Ellen Nguyen of UnitedOther

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ellen Nguyen.

Ellen, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I began a personal tradition several years ago that on my birthday I would gift myself a bottle of perfume at my favorite shop Scent Bar. Perfumes and scents have been a quiet passion of mine for a long time, something I didn’t quite openly share as it was a very personal and intimate love affair. I’ve held creative positions for most of my career, working for small and larger brands. There was a yearning that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. In my moments of stillness, there was always a whisper – softly telling me to go deeper, to release, to trust.

For two years, I was committed to looking beyond the veil, allowing the layers to fall, removing brick by brick the walls that I didn’t know I had built up. The more work I did to shed, the more I felt free, receptive and open. I visited a shop in Atwater called Individual Medley and they were burning a Breu resin incense in the shop. The scent and smoke moved me. It was a heightened but familiar connectedness, for the brief moment I felt whole. I immediately bought a box of this magical incense. The following day at another shop in Venice, a Copal incense from Mexico was burning. I knew these two synchronous moments were magical and that a seed was tenderly planted in my Soul.

I began buying incense books and sacred elements, setting off the smoke detectors in my apartment, practicing the braiding techniques of the Tibetan-style incense ropes and hand-dying the Nepalese paper. I still had my full-time job but on nights and weekends, I would continue to dive deeper because there was so much to learn about incense! I was just focused on nourishing these seeds of curiosity.

I learned that most incenses are soaked in synthetic fragrances which meant that you’re burning chemicals; hence, the overpowering scents and notorious headaches. I learned about the sacred properties of natural elements cherished by indigenous people. I learned that when intentions are set with burning incense that it because a sacred alchemy- acts of prayers and honoring to the Cosmos. Gathering and processing all the information, my intentions became clear as to what kind of incense I wanted to create: natural and sacred, intention-based with a purpose, and handcrafted in the form of incense ropes as it was a pure way to experience incense.

For over a year, I continue to trust and listen to the inner whisper. The whisper grew into a more confident, encouraging voice. When I held the finalized custom box for the incense ropes, the inner voice became an ecstatic “YES!” I quit my job a few months after, completed a 5-week live/work residency at Arcosanti in Arizona, came back to L.A. fully recharged to launched UnitedOther as well as the website in Oct. 2017. UnitedOther is not an overnight story. UnitedOther is a story of patience, dedication and complete trust.

Has it been a smooth road?
I am a firm believer that each Soul who comes into this life with a purpose and the main goal is to remember that purpose – to live it, to share it and to experience its joys. The most challenging part of my path to UnitedOther was releasing any resistance, contradictory thoughts, and worries I had within me about making the leap. Basically, I had to learn to let go of all the things that were holding me back – literally and symbolically. It became a daily mental, emotional and spiritual exercise of trust. Trust in my higher creative and spiritual purpose. Trust that all good things take time – time to develop, time to grow, time to succeed.

Trust that the Universe has my back 100 percent in orchestrating beautifully aligned people, places, and things on my behalf, as long as my intentions are pure. Don’t get me wrong, there are always things to sort out, problems to solve, and the rollercoaster of emotions and thoughts to overcome when you’re a solo business owner. The list goes on. A friend once advised me that every time I felt fear or doubt that I should flip it into excitement – to make the Unknown an exciting space where anything CAN happen and only focus on its positive potentiality. Period. I think it’s helpful to foresee challenges as opportunities. When we look at it through this lens, the perspective opens and there’s more room for growth.

This way you’re not just narrowly focusing on the problem, but also the landscape which contains solutions and ideas. I try not to wallow in my mistakes anymore. I don’t want to invest too much energy or time in beating myself up. It’s counterproductive. If I make a mistake, I quickly correct them and then move on. The mistake then becomes a learning or insight, which in the end is a positive experience. I have a daily Reiki meditation practice that helps me align with the right energies and intentions for the day. I take walks and play breaks with my dog-child Marcel as well as have spontaneous dance sessions. I check in with my family and friends when they’re on my mind. I set an ongoing 3-hour timer to pause and connect to the present moment.

These are my modalities and tools that help me connect to who I am, my gratitude and my purpose. These are my personal rituals that work for me. We all need ways to find peace and to help us to connect to our true selves because there will always be something that he comes up aka #LIFE. Whatever bumps, detours, or pit stops that I may encounter on the way, I can deal with it because I remember how far I’ve come. Each chapter, each evolution brings with it a different set of lessons, growth and joys. I will handle them when they arrive and then move on to the next level.

Currently, I’m focused on getting the word out about UnitedOther – sharing the story, inspiring people to experience the incense ropes, growing our Instagram community, finding strong store partners, vending at the right craft fairs and increasing online orders. Next month, there could be a different set of opportunities to focus on. The learning never stops, the growth never stops, the dreaming never stops – both on a business and personal level. After so many years of searching for the right coordinates, I am just grateful to be on my path.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with UnitedOther – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
My purest desire when I started UnitedOther is to use my creativity to serve the highest good – to be a positive force for this generation and the ones to follow. In traversing the depths and ancient histories of incense, I learned the power of sacred elements and its use as an act of clearing, evocation, honoring and invitation – filling the air with that which you want to bring forth. We have lost touch with this deeper connection to Mother Earth and the Universe through these ancient practices.

UnitedOther aspires to bridge this widening divide between sacred rituals and the modern world by honoring the primary and natural technologies of our ancestors – the cave painters, the stargazers, and the spiritual healers. They were seeking answers to the same deep questions we are – how to heal, to grow and to love unconditionally.

Through my extensive research and explorations of sacred woods, herbs, and tree resins from all around the world, each incense blend is intended to create an atmosphere of peace as well as serve a powerful purpose. From hand-dying the Nepalese paper to rolling each incense rope by hand, the incense blends are handcrafted in small batches to ensure the highest quality, and all created in our home city of L.A. The Tibetan-style incense ropes offer a pure and all-natural incense experience because they don’t contain any charcoal, binding additives, and synthetic fragrances.

UnitedOther stands for are integrity, purpose, innovation, and love. My hope for UnitedOther is that the company will continue to evolve and expand organically – defining its own unique shape and form, that it’s not limited to or categorized by one product or way of thinking, that innovation will light the way as the needs call for higher spiritual connectivity. Most importantly, that the community that UnitedOther encompasses will be diverse, open and loving.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I moved to L.A. in 2003 to go to CalArts. I was born in Vietnam but grew up in Orange County. I think most everyone who moves to LA for the first time either moves to Hollywood or Korea Town – the land of no parking and humble beginnings. I’ve covered most of the L.A. neighborhoods and have been lucky to experience the varying lifestyles of these diverse boroughs. Yet, there is still always something new I haven’t been to or restaurants I haven’t eaten at.

L.A. is a destination for great bands, so I’ve seen some amazing shows at incredible venues. Some of my favorite concerts include Sampha at the El Rey, James Blake at the St. John Cathedral, a tribute show to William Onyeabor at the Greek Theater and Kraftwerk in 3D at the Disney Hall. This is the magic of LA; it’s always pulsing, changing and there are different energies moving through it all the time. Don’t let the sunny and chill disposition fool you.

What I’ve come to really value and appreciate about L.A. is that L.A. is a BIG city with lots of interesting artists, makers, and communities. If you want to learn something new, you can easily find a class, workshop or a community to connect with. I’ve taken an incense making class with the wonderful teacher Persephenie Lea, a photography class with Photographer Jennifer Young offered by Poketo at the Line Hotel, ceramics classes with Ki Cho who owns Echo Ceramics, a creative method writing class with prolific writer/poet Jack Grapes, and magical workshops and Reiki classes at The Spirit House Collective in Eagle Rock. If you have a seed, there are people and places in L.A. that will help you plant and nurture them.

Because LA is so expansive, you can switch things up pretty easily by switching up your geography. On the Eastside, we have the Griffith Observatory for daytime hikes or nightly city stargazing. Let’s never forget that at any given time of the day we can simply go West and easily arrive at the Pacific ocean. This is truly a gift and one to cherish.

The things I dislike are pretty common amongst the Angelenos I share this city with – the rush hour bumper-to-bumper traffic on the 101, 110, 10 and 405, the street sweeping and/or parking meter tickets, and the lack of spontaneous, romantic connections. My love for L.A. outweighs any annoyances that come with living in a big city. L.A. is my home and you have to love where you live.

Pricing:

  • Sample Incense Packs (4 Incense Ropes) $16
  • Half Box (8 Incense Ropes) $28
  • Full Box (16 Incense Ropes) $48
  • Handmade Incense Holder (Petite) $28
  • Handmade Incense Holder (Medium) $52

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