Khalil Rafati had overdosed on heroin nine times by 2003, when he was 33 years old and weighed only 109 pounds. Rafati was sleeping on the streets of Los Angeles the last time paramedics used a defibrillator to give him electric shock so he could regain consciousness.
His ninth overdose was the final overdose before Khalil decided he needed to change his life in order to save it. He spent four months in a rehab centre and has been drug-free ever since, throwing himself into a healthy lifestyle. Khalil became so successful in rebuilding his life that he is now the Millionaire founder and owner of Sunlife Organics, one of California’s top healthy lifestyle brands.
Sunlife Organics comprises six juice cafés with plans to expand with 16 more in the United States and Japan. With annual sales of more than $6 Million, Rafati has upgraded from sleeping on the streets to travelling by private jet to business development meetings around the world.
Khalil has a life story made for Hollywood. He was born in Ohio to a Polish Jewish mother and a Muslim father. He dropped out of school at a young age, and began collecting arrests for vandalism and shoplifting. At age 21, he moved to Los Angeles with hopes to become a film star.
When it started to become apparent to Khalil that he wasn’t going to be a famous film star, he started playing in local bands and cleaning cars for Hollywood elite, like Elizabeth Taylor and Slash (ha). Unfortunately, Khalil was using drugs at the same time and his life started to spiral out of control, sleeping in cardboard boxes and dealing drugs so he could afford his own.
Nine near-death experiences later, Khalil accessed therapy to kick his drug addiction and kept busy with work. He was employed at two rehab centres in Malibu, washed cars, walked dogs and did gardening work. He was working 7 days a week, 16 hours per day and started to save money. He became obsessed with making his own vegetable and fruit juices after meeting up with a hippie friend from Ohio who started teaching him about vitamins and organic food, and super foods.
In 2007, only 4 years after nearly dying 9 times, Khalil had enough money to rent a house and open his own rehab centre, Riviera Recovery, for clients who would pay $10,000 to recover and stay a month at the facility.
Khalil’s Riviera Recovery centre became the catalyst for Sunlife Organics’ success. Khalil would make his residents exotic juice blends and the reputation of his drinks spread beyond the building, with the L.A. community calling in to buy the juices.
Khalil sensed a bigger business opportunity and pooled his savings to start his first branch of Sunlife Organics, in partnership with his girlfriend at the time. It was an instant success, generating $1 Million in sales in its first year.
Today, Sunlife Organics employs more than 200 people and has expanded to sell a wider range of food and clothes, such as t-shirts and hoodies.
Rob Nazara, an analyst at Deutsche Bank in New York, says Khalil’s story shows real strength of character. “No matter what the educational or professional background someone may have, the success of an entrepreneur is driven by grit, determination and ambition,” he says.
Khalil still runs Riviera Recovery and owns a yoga studio in Malibu. Perhaps most Notably, Khalil has penned his autobiography, I Forgot To Die, which recounts his struggle with addiction and his road to recovery and entrepreneurial success.
“I don’t consider myself super intelligent,” says Khalil. “But I have a hunger for life, and put all of myself into something when I decide to do it.”
This story originally appeared on BBC UK