“Love, heal and inspire.” This is the motto that Khalil Rafati followed when he opened his first store.
Those three words are now written in jackets and shirts Rafati sells through his company, the SunLife Organics brand. A brand that has made him a millionaire. It wasn’t always this way for Rafati, his life was in a dark lonely place.
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Thirteen years ago, Rafati was homeless and addicted to hard drugs such as heroin. Rafati weighed a pitiful 106 pounds and was covered in ulcers as he lived in the notorious skid row in Los Angeles.
He came to Los Angeles in hopes of getting away from a childhood filled with sexual abuse. And as many, Rafati came to the city of angels to have a successful life.
It didn’t take long for him to find success. According to the New York Times, he started his own business detailing sports cars. He had a list of “A list” celebrities and rock stars. His popular clientele included Elizabeth Taylor, Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash, and Academy Award-winning actor Jeff Bridges.
To make a little extra money, Rafati dealt a small amount of marijuana and through that was introduced to heroin. After he began using heroin, his life was downhill from that point on for the next five years. In his memoir, I Forgot To Die, Rafati says he soon spiraled into addiction, nearly dying in 2001 when he intentionally overdosed on IV heroin at a house party in Malibu.
Rafati finally decided enough was enough. After finding himself at rock bottom and in jail in 2003, Rafati cleaned his life up. As he began to sober up, he started making his own juices for patients and staff at the Riviera Recovery Center, a sober living house he opened in Malibu in 2007.
It was there he created a smoothie he dubbed the “Wolverine,” a date and banana concoction that would eventually become his company, Sun Life’s signature drink.
Finally clean, Rafati had an epiphany. He could help “Love, heal and inspire” others that were going through hardship as he had. He said his drink the Wolverine “was meant to rejuvenate and strengthen the patients,” he told the Times. “And give them some much-needed strength.”
The sober Rafati recalled an instance when people that were not part of the sober living program came to try his smoothies. He witnessed how well the smoothies were helping people, and it was then he decided to open SunLife Organics.
With the help of $50,000 he had saved in gold coins and financial support from a professional gambler, his dream came true and SunLife Organics came to fruition.
The juice bars regulars include David Duchovny and Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis and has become famous for the long lines of people waiting to purchase drinks with names like “The Elixir of Life” and “The Happy.”
In just five short years Rafati, now 46, has created a juice empire built on the very drinks that he credits with saving his own life.
When it come to hiring staff, Rafati selects people who need the kind of help he was desperately searching for 13 years ago. “Right from the start he was trying to better my life,” said Cache Coelho, who was addicted to OxyCotin before he moved to Los Angeles. “He pushes us very hard,” he added. “In a father-like sense.”
Coelho added, “He gets very personal with us, especially the ones he believes in.”