A man addicted to heroin then became a millionaire
At age 33, Khalil Rafati lived in the streets in cardboard boxes and consumed heroin and cocaine paste until, almost near death; he managed to quit his addictions to become a millionaire of healthy food.
Khalil Rafati was going through his ninth heroin overdose and the paramedics were desperately trying to save his life. The medical team used a defibrillator to give him an electric shock and the drug addict finally regained consciousness.
That was in 2003, when Khalil was 33 and slept in the open on the streets of Los Angeles, California, in the United States. He was also addicted to cocaine base paste or “crack”, he was weighed only 49 kg and his skin was covered with ulcers.
“I was arrested more times than I can remember (for drug offenses),” says Khalil. “I was completely messed up … and always in so much pain that I could not sleep.”
Although Khalil had tried before leaving the drugs and failed, he states that after his ninth overdose, he finally realized that he had to change if he wanted to go on living. So he spent four months in a rehabilitation center and has since been drug free.
After devoting himself to living healthily, Khalil has been so successful reshaping his life that today he is the founder and owner of Sunlife Organics, a renowned California health food company that has made him a millionaire.
Photo: BBC World
With annual sales of more than $ 6 million dollars in its six branches – the company is preparing to expand to 16 other states and Japan.
At age 46 and accustomed to traveling by private jet, it has been a long journey since his days sleeping on the streets. The fact is that Khalil’s story could be the plot of a Hollywood movie.
He was born in Ohio, in the center of the United States, the son of a Polish Jewish mother and a Muslim father. He had a turbulent childhood, left school without a diploma and was arrested for vandalism and theft. In 1992, at age 21, she moved to Los Angeles with the dream of becoming a movie star.
His acting career never took off, but he started playing in local music ensembles and managed to earn a living by washing away Hollywood star cars that included Elizabeth Taylor, Jeff Bridges and Guns N ‘Roses guitarist Slash.
However, he soon plunged into drugs and his life went into an uncontrolled spiral. He ended up sleeping in cardboard boxes next to other addicts and selling drugs to pay for his own addiction. But after that fateful ninth overdose, Khalil’s life changed completely for the better. After getting over his drug addiction, he kept busy with several jobs.
In addition to working in two rehabilitation centers in Malibu, he washed cars, took dogs for walks and was involved in gardening. “I could save money,” he says. “I worked hard, seven days a week, 16 hours a day.”
Khalil also became obsessed with making his own fruit and vegetable juices, after meeting an old friend from Ohio. “He was more or less a hippie who started teaching me about vitamins, organic food and super nutritious foods,” he explains. “At that moment I was looking for anything that made me feel better.”
In 2007, Khalil leased a home and opened his own rehabilitation center, Riviera Recovery, for clients who could afford the $ 10,000 a month that cost the stay.
Photo: SUNLIFE ORGANICS
To these residents, Khalil prepared a mix of exotic juices like the one he called “Wolverine,” a combination of banana, maca powder, royal jelly and pollen.
Over time, the reputation of these drinks began to grow and people called him to buy them. He realized there was enough demand to set up a separate business so in 2011 Khalil launched Sun life Organics in partnership with his best friend and then-girlfriend.
He financed the business with his savings and the first branch opened in Malibu. Khalil says it was an immediate success, reaching $ 1 million dollars in sales the first year. Today, the company employs more than 200 people in its 6 branches. In addition to juices, now sells a range of food and clothing, such as t-shirts and hooded.
Rob Nazara, an analyst at Deutsche Bank in New York, says that Khalil’s story reveals a real strength of character. “No matter what educational or professional background you have, the success of an entrepreneur is driven by resilience, determination and ambition,” he says.
In addition to Sun life Organics, Khalil still manages Riviera Recovery and owns a yoga studio in Malibu. He also took the time to write his autobiography, “I Forgot to Die,” published in 2015.
“I do not think I’m super smart,” says Khalil. “But I have an appetite for life and I throw myself into something when I intend to do it.”
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