From Homeless to Millionaire with Khalil Rafati
In this episode, I’m speaking with Khalil Rafati. Khalil is a high school dropout, convicted felon, and former heroin and crack addict who wound up homeless by the age of 33.
With nowhere to go but up, he decided it was time to get sober — and that’s exactly what he did!
Fast forward to today, Khalil is a bestselling author, speaker, and health and wellness entrepreneur. He is the founder and owner of SunLife Organics, a rapidly growing chain of health food cafés with locations in California, Texas, and Arizona.
In our conversation, you’ll hear Khalil’s unbelievable journey from a homeless junkie, to learning to invest and becoming a millionaire! We talk about overcoming the poverty mindset, the power of surrender, and why billionaire John Paul Dejoria decided to invest $1 million into his business. That and a whole lot more!
Key Takeaways with Khalil Rafati
- Why you don’t have to be “smart” to be successful.
- Kahlil shares his unbelievably true life story — from homeless junkie, to learning to invest and starting his own business.
- Hear how SunLife Organics began and why there’s lineups out the door to get inside.
- How to eliminate the poverty mindset and start living an abundant lifestyle.
- A commitment to health and longevity — and the importance of fueling your body with high quality organic ingredients.
- A common fruit that most people don’t know is super toxic!
- What exactly is rescue honey?
- Lessons on networking and nurturing relationships.
- How Khalil struck a million dollar deal with billionaire John Paul Dejoria, expanded his business, and created a real solution for homelessness.
- Why surrendering and asking for help isn’t a form of weakness.
From Homeless to Millionaire with Khalil Rafati
Khalil Rafati Tweetable“A lot of people think surrendering is weak. Surrendering is joining the winning team. I asked God for help, and as a result, I became a millionaire.” - @KhalilRafati Click To Tweet “Abundance begets abundance.” - @KhalilRafati Click To Tweet
- SunLife Organics
- Follow Kahlil Rafati on Instagram,
- I Forgot to Die by Khalil Rafati
- Remembering to Live by Khalil Rafati
- Charles Schwab
- Riviera Recovery
- Zach Bush
- John Paul Dejoria
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Read the Full Transcript with Khalil Rafati
Justin Donald: Alright, Khalil, I am so excited that we get a chance to hang today, and this has been a long time coming. We’ve been actually trying to do this for a little while, and I’m glad that schedules have lined up. So, welcome to The Lifestyle Investor podcast. We are so excited to have you and learn more about you and your story.
Khalil Rafati: Awesome. Thank you, brother. I’m happy to be here. It’s funny because you said that we’re still good, and I said yes. And then I raced to SunLife and then I raced back here and then I was going to go back to SunLife and get a match just so I would be a little bit sharper, get that feeling and a little bit of caffeine in me. And I realized I didn’t have your address. And then I’m like, “Where is your address?” And I got halfway down the street. You’re like, “It’s a Zoom.” I’m like, “Oh, of course, it is.” So, turn around. I can get the Zoom on my phone, but I couldn’t get the Zoom on my computer. Finally, I guess my point is, and certainly, you know me well enough to know that this is not feigned humility.
What has come to me recently is part of the message that I need to tell people is you don’t have to be smart to be successful, and I mean that sincerely. And a big part of what held me back most of my life was believing that I was dumb because I was told I had learning disabilities, I was told I was a problem child, I was told I was an instigator. And for the first 33 years of my life, I bought into that narrative that was placed upon me. And I was broke and a drug addict and a loser and I had a horrible life. And my life is so incredible now. And I think that’s the most important thing I can say to anybody, especially young people, is don’t believe what anybody ever says to you about you. Go within your heart, ask God to give you the courage and the wisdom to know who you are and know what your capabilities are because, as you know, coming to my business all the time, what I have accomplished by the grace of God is pretty incredible. And it’s something that you and I both enjoy on a daily basis. I mean, I just left there an hour ago and almost went back there again to get something else.
Justin Donald: I love it. So, for those of you that are unaware, Khalil owns SunLife Organics, which is truly the premier smoothie acai bowl fresh-pressed juice matcha place that exists anywhere on the globe. All the products that he uses are of the highest quality. It’s just incredible. And so, in fact, learning about how we met, I think might be really fun. And I don’t even know if you remember this, Khalil, but I remember being in your shop. It had opened. And we just love acai bowl smoothies in general. I mean, this is our world. This way, most days of the week, we’ve got vitamin X, we love vitamin X, we make our own smoothies. And so, any time a new smoothie place opens up, we love to support them. And when we went to your place, we were just wowed. And you had just recently moved here, and I didn’t know you at this point. You used to live in Malibu. You’ve got a bunch of 12 locations, I believe, in Malibu and in the L.A. area.
Khalil Rafati: Yeah, all over the place.
Justin Donald: All over California. And so, I see this guy in line who, there’s a long line and it looks like the work staff is kind of like hustle and bustle in. And I remember you saying, “Hey, take your time. I’m good. I’ve got time. Don’t rush.” And I just thought you were a customer. And then, there was something else that seemed like one of the girls that was working was a little flustered. And you’re like, “Don’t worry about it. I’m good. Take your time.” And I remember coming up to you and I didn’t know who you were and I just said, “Hey, I think it’s really great how you’re treating the staff here.” I think that goes a long way. And I just think being a customer that is understanding and easy to work with is just such a cool thing. And your response was, “Well, I sure should hope so because this is my place. I would hope that I’m good and kind to my people.”
And so, that just started this wonderful conversation, this dialog that, I mean, we talked for probably an hour to an hour and a half that first time and just hit it off. And so, I’m so glad to have you here. I’m so glad to be able to share this great story, this great restaurant, but I want to learn more about you. And I know our audience wants to know, how did SunLife Organics begin?
Khalil Rafati: Well, that’s a loaded question. And I have to go back…
Justin Donald: Depends on how deep you want to go, right?
Khalil Rafati: Yeah, I have to go back momentarily because I think your wife was waiting in line for the bathroom. And then when she walked up, that’s when I realized, like, oh, my God, this guy must be really important to have a wife that hot.
Justin Donald: You’re too kind. I remember you saying something like, I think you thought I was hitting on her, and you’re like, “Ooh, nice job. That’s a good one to be hitting at.” And I was like, “Oh, that’s my wife. I’m glad that it looks like I’m hitting on her.”
Khalil Rafati: Yeah. So, actually, how did SunLife Organics come about? Well, for the first 33 years of my life, I was super unhealthy, and I grew up in Ohio and a rural town in Ohio, I lived on Doritos, gummy bears, McDonald’s, illicit substances, started smoking cigarettes and weed when I was a little kid just to fit in with the older guys, binge drinking by the time I was 12, really, really took to alcohol initially just because it gave me some chemical courage and gave me beer muscles. And it made me feel less of a worthless piece of shit. There was something about alcohol that kind of made that go away temporarily. And in the beginning, it was quite nice.
And then, as time went on, more and more problems began to happen with it, because I believe I was prewired or had a predisposition towards alcoholism. So, junk food, shitty American diet, really bad at school, I was held back in kindergarten and then I was held back again in sixth grade and as I said earlier, told over and over again that I was all these things. And so, junk food, drugs, alcohol, cigarette smoking, really not living a very healthy lifestyle, womanizing, cheating, all of that stuff, up until I moved out to California to get away from trouble because I was in a lot of trouble back there. I had been arrested three times before I was 16 years old, and the last time for a pretty serious charge. And I left Ohio to get away from trouble. And I went to California. And within a very short period of time, I found a lot more trouble.
There were some good times in the beginning. I definitely did some really cool things and found some success because people in California don’t want to work, most of them. And I did, I was hungry, I had a voracious appetite to kind of prove everyone wrong back home and my parents and all that stuff, but I started getting into really, really heavy drugs, really. At first, some of the kind of not so heavy stuff, the ecstasy and the ketamine and all that, but eventually found heroin and found crack and found cocaine and wound up being an intravenous drug user, completely went off the rails, lost everything, gave up, wound up homeless.
And unfortunately, because there was so much drug use going on, I began to develop mental problems and a kind of self-induced psychosis set in and really, honestly wound up truly, truly suffering the high cost of low living. I mean, just dehydrated, 109 pounds, teeth rotting, falling out of my head, emaciated, got another felony, kept getting arrested, kept getting beat up, started having seizures. And I’m paraphrasing a lot. If anybody’s really interested in the horrific spiral downwards, they can read my book, I Forgot to Die, which fortunately has become a bestseller. And it’s done really, really well. And it’s in a bunch of different languages now. So, that’s my memoir, I Forgot to Die. I gave you a copy, right?
Justin Donald: Yeah. And I want to chime in that your book is incredible. So, there’s so much of it where there’s this dark side and the struggles that you’ve had. And so much so that it’s like, hey, it can’t get any worse than this. And then it dies, but then it does like 10 more times. And it’s like, 10 times ago, I thought it couldn’t get any worse. And it’s just amazing that you were able to pull yourself out of this downward spiral. I mean, I didn’t think you could go in the hole any further. And you did, you somehow miraculously found a way to just keep going down in this spiral. And it’s really a testament to your character and just who you are, the way you’ve been able to pull yourself out and build an incredible company and great relationships with people because most people who were where you were did not make it out.
Khalil Rafati: Yeah, and I appreciate you saying that and I do believe that I think because of my heritage, my mother came from Poland, my father came from Palestine, I definitely have a strong disposition, but I have to say because I would be being dishonest if I didn’t say this, I am here and I am alive and I am as successful as I am today because of the power and grace of a living loving God. I have to say that, I mean that’s sort of, I don’t like to use the word disclaimer, but that is the ultimate truth. And I’m not some Bible-thumping go to church on Sunday. I’m not that guy at all. In fact, I rarely will talk religion with anybody because I don’t want to falsely represent any religion and I don’t claim to have any religion, but I have an incredible, profound relationship with a living loving God, not my dad’s God, not my mom’s God, but God.
And the one thing I did right after doing everything wrong, everything wrong, and made such a horrendous mess of my life was I got on my knees and I surrendered to God. And that’s going to sound silly to certain people, and if it does, that’s fine. I don’t need anybody’s approval on that. I just know that I sunk so low that my ego beat all of the defiances out of me, I guess is a better way of putting it. And when I was truly left with nothing, convicted felon, high school dropout, penniless, homeless, mentally ill, without the ability to do anything to provide for myself, I surrendered.
A charity called Musicians Assistance Program took me in or in my case, failed Musicians Assistance Program took me in. A guy named Bob Forrest, who later on in life became famous on that show. I think it was called Celebrity Rehab, but he helped me get into this charity because I don’t know if the words indigent or indigent, but completely, I was on welfare, I was on food stamps. They took me in, they put me into primary care for a couple of months, and then they put me into a halfway house for three months after that. And they gave me $40 a week, which sounds crazy because it seems like I spend that on coffee nowadays, but not literally, but you know what I mean. It’s like, we go to a restaurant, go to dinner at the Peacock or go to dinner at Aba. And like, I mean, I think that’s what you spend on bottled water is $40 a day, but they gave me $40 a week to live on. I had to buy my cigarettes with that and feed myself on that.
So, I surrendered. Help came and in the process of surrendering and asking God for help and building a relationship with God, it’s just starting to feel like, okay, we’ll put one foot in front of the other and just keep surrendering and keep asking God for help. And it’s like, again, I know this might sound trite to smart people, but for someone that’s not smart to ask God for help continuously, and Justin, when I say ask God for help, I mean literally like white-knuckled, like squeezing my fists together, my prayer hands together and literally saying, like, “God, can you please help me? Can you please help me? Will you please hold my hand? Will you please walk with me today? I’m scared. God, can you please hold my hand and walk me through this situation?”
And it just seemed like there was this unlimited supply of help. The more I asked for it and the more I was willing to do the footwork, just put one foot in front of the other, keep asking God for help, and all of a sudden work showed up, and then all of a sudden, another job showed up. And then, I mean, and when I say work, I don’t mean like, I got a job at Charles Schwab. I mean, when I say work like some dude hired me as a laborer at $100 a day, which was a massive amount of money to me. Lou Gossett Jr. hired me as a dog walker. This lady Sherman hired me to wash dogs in her grooming facility called Sherman’s Place. Work just kept showing up, more and more and more work.
Some woman named Pietra hired me. She used to be married to Billy Bob Thornton and she had these two beautiful sons with him named Willie and Harry. And she hired me at first to clean up her dog poop and walk her French bulldogs, and then eventually, she hired me to teach her kids how to boogie board. And she was paying me like 40 bucks an hour, which was just mind-boggling. So, I had my little job in rehab. I had my little job cleaning apartments. I had my little job washing cars. I just kept praying and asking God for help and it just kept getting better and better and better.
Justin Donald: That’s amazing. And just the transformation, it’s great that you can recognize you weren’t able to do this of your own power. Like you needed help, you needed God’s grace. And that was it. And you were willing to surrender to him and just give up all ego and put everything aside and say, “You know what? My way is not the right way. Let me do this over again.”
Khalil Rafati: Yeah, well, clearly, my way was not the right way. I mean, to wind up a homeless junkie, complete like schizophrenia, panhandling, filthy, dirty, teeth falling out of my head, sharing needles with people that had AIDS and hepatitis C, like my way was clearly not the right way, odds way. Look, there was a lot of menial labor in the beginning, there were a lot of 18-hour days in the beginning, but then I also had a guy who I was sponsoring who was a gold bug. And it hurt, but he said to me, like, “Don’t those jeans cost like $200?” I’m like, “Yeah,” and he goes, “Aren’t you sleeping at Robbie’s place, like for free, because you’re homeless?” And I’m like, “Yeah,” like my ego, my chest felt that like, yeah. And he’s like, “So, you don’t have your own place, but you spend $200 on jeans.” And I got really mad, I got really defensive, and he goes, look, man, I’m not trying to bust your balls, I’m just trying to help you to understand something. I was 34 at the time. He’s like you’re 34 years old, you got to start putting some money away and investing money and start to build a future for you because it’s cute when you’re crashing at your sponsor’s house when you’re 30, but it’s not so cute when you’re 40, and it’s probably not going to be available when you’re 50.
So, he drove me to a place called California Numismatics Medals, which I had no idea what that meant. And he kept talking about Krugerrand, which obviously, I had no idea what a Krugerrand was, but he was insistent that every paycheck, I go and buy one gold coin. And I was like, “I don’t get it.” He goes, “Come with me and you’ll get it.” He drove me to California Numismatics Medals. This guy named Harry, who I just saw yesterday, helped me. This was 18 years ago. And we walked in, and he was buying a ten-ounce bar, and it had Lady Fortuna on it, which is the blindfolded image of, I guess, the goddess of fortune holding a horn of plenty. It’s really beautiful. If anybody ever gets a chance, Google Lady Fortuna. He was buying a ten-ounce bar, and then he had Harry hand me a Krugerrand and he said, “Buy that, get yourself a safety deposit box. And every paycheck, every money that you get, take a portion of it while you’re living rent-free and while you don’t have bills and responsibilities and kids and all that stuff and just stock it away and stock it away and stock it away.”
So, just like violence begets violence, and work begets work, I believe abundance begets abundance. So, I began to switch out of a poverty mentality because now, all of a sudden, I had gold and it was cool and I liked it and it was interesting. And I would keep putting in my safety deposit box. And then, that was 2004, as you know, gold started to really go up. And when gold started to really go up, I began to buy more and more and more. And I learned how to invest at that at 34, 35, 36 years old. And so, that money began to grow. And in 2007, I had the money and the guts and the naivete and probably, incredibly presumptuous, naive notion that I could start my own business. And that was the year I started Riviera Recovery.
And I took that money. I sold about half of my gold and I rented out a place and I started this place called Riviera Recovery. I did it on a shoestring and a prayer. I had no idea what I was doing. My partner who did most of the work, by the way, got us right to the finish line and relapsed and disappeared and moved out of state. So, on one hand, thank God for Chris because he literally, like, painted the house and moved out the furniture and got all the connections set up where we were going to get clients from and contact with the doctors and then relapsed and disappeared, but I opened the doors, and by the grace of God, the whole place filled up. And I began my first real business venture in 2007. And yeah, it was amazing.
Justin Donald: That was a rehab facility, correct?
Khalil Rafati: It was a transitional living facility. So, after primary care, rather than people going to a halfway house, like I did, I saw that there was a market for what rich people do when they get out of these $50,000, $60,000 facilities? They’re not going to go to a place like I went. I mean, I went, like, I’m grateful. Thank you, God. Thank you, Riviera Recovery. Thank you, Bob Forrest. But I went to a not-so-nice place where three dudes shared one room. And most of them were people that came from homelessness and jail or prison or whatever. So, I realized, like rich people getting out of promises and passages, they needed a place to go. And so, I started this place called Riviera Recovery. I convinced my sponsor’s wife to let me rent their house and to give me, like, three months’ free rent upfront in exchange for fixing the place up really nice. And then I rented furniture.
When I say I started it on a shoestring and a prayer, I literally, like I did not have the money, I did not have the experience, I did not have the wherewithal or the know-how, but because I put the intention out there because I was willing to chop wood and carry water, because I was constantly, God, please, God, please. Can you walk with me? God, please. Can you help me? God, please. Could you show me what to do in this situation? Riviera Recovery took off, and in Riviera Recovery, back to your original question, I was mixing up these juices and mixing up these smoothies mostly for myself. I got to be honest because I started to see the miraculous effects of putting super healthy food into my body. It was right around that time that I quit smoking and I began doing fasts and cleanses and juice cleanses and making smoothies in the morning and juices in the afternoon. I started to feel amazing.
Well, the clients at Riviera Recovery, they wanted what I was making, so I started giving it to them. And Justin, I started to see nothing shy of miraculous results in the people that I was giving these juices and smoothies to, and I don’t say that lightly. I mean, I saw people quit smoking spontaneously. I saw people slowly titrating off of their psych meds through the help of a doctor, not by my advising, but through the help of their doctor, I watched people slowly titrate themselves off of their psych meds. I watch people go from gray and sallow with bad circles under their eyes to looking vibrant and alive. And it was so amazing.
And that was where the idea came, like, man, if it’s helping these people like, it could help a lot of people. So, I’m going to open up my own little juice bar. And that was in 2011. And again, absolutely on a shoestring and a prayer, I didn’t really have the money. I went to a guy who came from a different type of lifestyle, a lifestyle of gambling, and the type of guy that you would definitely not want to not pay back, so to speak, a very tough, tough individual. And I was saying to him, I really want to open up my own juice bar. And he was saying, “How much is it?” I said, “It’s a couple hundred thousand dollars.” And he was like, “That’s a hand of poker to me.” And I was like, “Oh, okay, well, maybe you could loan me the money.” And he did.
And I took $55,000 of my own money. I borrowed exactly $208,000 of his money, paid him back one year to the day, paid him back one year later, and opened up SunLife Organics in 2011, and again, incredibly naive, didn’t have the experience, didn’t have the wherewithal, the know-how, but because I prayed and I prayed and I prayed and I worked hard and I worked hard and I worked hard, we opened up the doors and there was a line out the door. And something that I know that you would appreciate, about two weeks before we were opening, I was so terrified, Justin. I was absolutely in the mindset because my ego jumped in, and my ego was like, what in the F is wrong with you? Why would you do this? Why would you, like there’s already a juice bar in this tiny little town, like, why would you be so crazy to think that you’re going to like no one’s going to come and people still remember you as a drug dealer and a bad guy, and no one’s going to come here, like, Justin, it was scary.
The day before we opened, we were installing a frozen yogurt machine. I thought, why don’t I serve 100% certified organic frozen yogurt? We were installing the machine, and a couple of kids walked in, and that was not uncommon, but my response always was like, “Sorry, guys, we’re not open yet, but if you come back tomorrow.” And these kids walked in and they looked at me and they’re like, “Hi.” And I’m like, “Hi.” And I’m looking at them and I’m looking at the machine I just installed, or I didn’t install, but the guys had just installed, and we were like taste-testing the yogurt, it was amazing. And I was like, “Hey, listen, we’re not open until tomorrow, but I would love to treat you guys to a couple of frozen yogurts.” And they’re like, “Oh my God, thank you so much.”
They were like high school kids, so they got it. They go outside. Justin, 15 other kids come in behind them. And I’m like, what is going on? And I’m like, “Where are you guys from?” And they’re like, “Oh, we’re a church group from Minnesota. And we’re here to do a singing thing at Pepperdine,” like a choir or something like that. And I’m like, “Alright, well,” and I just started handing them out all these frozen yogurts. And they’re like minors, their house mom or keeper or whatever comes running in and she’s like, “Guys, no, you can’t. Don’t overwhelm him and you have to pay them.” And I’m like, “No, no, no, no, it’s free.” And she’s like, “No, no, no. I insist that we pay you.” And I’m like, “Lady, listen, the register doesn’t work yet. The only thing that works is this frozen yogurt machine. So, just please, I’m so nervous about opening up tomorrow. I just want to share with you guys, this is like the best part of my day.” There were 35 of them.
Justin Donald: Wow.
Khalil Rafati: She kept trying to give me money. I kept saying no. The kids are freaking out. It’s a hot day. They’re freaking out. They’re eating the frozen yogurt. So, after I finally get her to calm down and just accept the gift, she goes outside. I’m wiping the sweat off my brow. She comes back in again, and I’m like, “No.” And she was, “No, no, no, no. The kids have something that they want to tell you.” Whoa, getting emotional thinking about this. I said, “Okay.” And I walked outside and they started singing hymns. They started singing these beautiful Christian hymns, and that was my sign from God that everything was going to work. And I cried clearly, as I’m crying now. I haven’t thought about that a really long time, but these kids had voices like angels. And I fed them because that’s what you’re supposed to do. And they gave me back what they had, which was their beautiful, angelic voices and their Christian hymns of praise of God.
And it was so, like, I froze, I literally froze. And they just kept singing, they kept going. And everybody in that commercial center came out and they all just stood there awestruck with goosebumps, like the hair on the back of their neck standing up, because here were these angelic kids delivering these beautiful hymns of praise and joy to God. And in that moment, I realized, like, I’m okay. It’s okay, everything is okay. God is always with us. We just have to remember to turn to God and we will receive what we are supposed to receive. That doesn’t mean that I can close my eyes and go, God, I want a Lamborghini, or I want a Ferrari. I want Bitcoin to go back up to 64,000 so I could double my money or whatever. It’s not like that. It’s that here’s a young man turning his life around, creating a place where people could come together and eat healthy food, just like your daughter does, just like your beautiful wife does, just like you do. And I’m providing something that’s good, that brings value to people. And in that moment, I knew that I was going to be okay. Now, in that moment, I knew that there would be 12 locations 10 years later, that I would be living in this beautiful house that we just built in Austin, Texas, no, I didn’t know any of that stuff. I just knew that I was going to be okay because I had faith.
And the next morning, as we took the cardboard off the windows, my heart was pounding because I’m like, “Oh my God, oh my God, this is so crazy, I can’t believe we’re going to open up.” People started to line up. It was about 15 minutes before we were opening. Now, here’s the crazy part. We didn’t advertise. We didn’t tell anybody. I mean, I told a few people that we’re coming in like, we’re going to open tomorrow, we’re going to open tomorrow. So, by the time we actually opened the door, there was a line out the door. And that line, if you go to that original location, that line is still there and it’s never stopped. And that location does about two million dollars a year in revenue. The other location that I have in Malibu also does a little bit over two million dollars a year in revenue out of 900 square feet.
Now, look, the profits are tiny and that’s okay. That’s okay because I didn’t do this to get rich, I did it because I felt that it was my purpose. I helped these kids in rehab get healthy and get happy. And I wanted to do that for my friends and for my neighbors and for strangers alike. And so, it was a pure intention. It was blessed by God. And it continues to grow. And that’s the story of SunLife. Sorry, I got a little emotional.
Justin Donald: That’s amazing. I love it. I love your raw emotion. And I just think it’s so cool seeing how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together and really, the origin of it all and how you could then be at peace and say, “You know what? I am where I need to be. I’m blessed. God’s going to provide.” And you have just been able to grow and scale from there. And I think it’s so neat. And for me, I’ve had this vantage point of being able to see you in this new location here in Austin. And I know that at the beginning, it was like a trickle effect. People didn’t know about it. It was open during a pandemic, and it was such an interesting thing, too. Today, it is bustling. You’ve got lines, you’ve got every seat at your table taken. You’ve got to go orders that are through the roof. I mean, the volume that you guys have done from one month to the next. I mean, it’s two different businesses, and I don’t look at your numbers, but I’ve been there enough to know, like, I know how many people were there in March. I know how many people were there in April. I know how many people were there in May. And it’s just so cool to see this explosion of people. And I love how healthy all the ingredients are.
In fact, I’d love for you to share even, just so people understand how high quality of ingredients that you do use, because you and I, we’re so committed to our health and making sure that what we feed our bodies is not just eating for pleasure, it’s eating for fuel and making sure that we’re fueling up with things that are going to allow us to live long healthy lives. So, I think if you can elaborate on that, it’s really cool, I mean, even just like learning from you what rescue honey is. I didn’t even know what rescue honey was. And now, I do know, but you describe it so much better than I do.
Khalil Rafati: Yeah. I mean, whether it’s the honey or the protein powder or the acai or whatever it is, the baseline was organic. Everything has to be organic, which 99% in most places are not organic, which is really unfortunate because it’s really, really important to be organic. And I don’t want to get into a whole speech about that, but I mean, people are beginning to wake up to the fact that our soil here is dead. Our soil has been dead for many, many years. And when you’re using pesticides and insecticides and all kinds of horrible fertilizers, it’s just not good. And do you need to have organic chicken? I think so, but are you really going to suffer without it? Probably not.
But when it comes to something like a strawberry, if you look at the Dirty Dozen online, there’s something called the Dirty Dozen, which is 12 things that you should never, ever, ever put in your body unless they’re organic. Number one on the list is strawberries. And the reason being is because strawberries are the most highly, highly sprayed and just toxic fruits that you can put into your body because they’re grown so close to the ground, they’re grown right next to the soil, and because they’re bright red and because they’re sweet, so they naturally are going to attract bugs and pestilence.
So, we started organic, but then once we got everything organic, we started out with everything organic, once we had that baseline, then we began to seek out, okay, well, everything’s organic, but what’s the best of the best of the best? Like, where could I find the best maca? Where does maca come from? Maca comes from Peru, supposed to come from Peru. Now, it comes from China, and you can look that up. I went down to Peru and I met with some of the people that grow maca. I went to all the different markets. I asked a lot of questions, and I searched and sought out and found an heirloom variety of maca that is only grown at 12,000 feet elevation.
Our cacao beans are not just 100% certified organic, but they are from deep within the jungles of Ecuador and they’re also an heirloom variety. Our matcha, which for people that don’t know, matcha is green tea leaves all ground up, and then you make a drink with it. And we have the most incredible ice matcha latte on the planet. I went to Japan not once, but twice, and I went all over Japan trying to find the best of the best of the best. And I finally met the tea master who introduced me to the farmers once I was able to win him over, and they gave me access to this prized, coveted, most amazing matcha on the planet. And that’s the matcha that we use and that’s the maca that we use. It’s the same thing with the goji berries, the same thing with the raw cacao beans. The protein powders, like if we’re going to use whey, which we do, we make sure it’s from New Zealand and we make sure it’s from grass-fed, grass-finished cows. If we’re going to use plant-based protein powder, like pea or hemp or whatever, we make sure that that’s literally the best of the best of the best of the best. And we never stop. We never stop refining that.
I think most brands, they want to establish themselves, use social media, get big, dumb everything down, scale quickly, and sell for a billion dollars. We did the opposite, we literally did the opposite. We have never advertised. We have continuously evolved and refined and made sure that what we’re giving people is the best of the best of the best of the best. Now, your daughter, I don’t know her that well, but I know her well enough to know that she has discernment. She definitely knows what she likes and what she wants and would probably have no problem telling you or me if she doesn’t like something or want something.
Justin Donald: That’s right.
Khalil Rafati: To watch your daughter, seven years old?
Justin Donald: Eight now, yeah.
Khalil Rafati: Eight years old, to not just want to eat what she has in front of her at SunLife, but to grab your smoothie as well and start drinking yours, it was like the cutest thing ever to watch that happen. Or your wife or you, I mean, look, you guys know better. You have the means and the intelligence to go out and find the best of the best of the best. And when I see you there, seems like more and more, really, it lets me know that we’re on to something and that we’re on the right path.
Justin Donald: Yeah. And tell everyone about your honey, what rescue honey is.
Khalil Rafati: Oh, God. I forgot about that.
Justin Donald: This is my favorite. This is so cool.
Khalil Rafati: So, I was looking for the best of the best honey. And there’s a lot of different honeys out there and there’s a lot of different flavor profiles with honey, but I heard a story about a guy who would go and rescue hives from people’s houses or people’s properties or people’s tractors. And I just thought, wait, is that real? Like, don’t they sting you? And like isn’t it scary? And my friend who was telling me about it was like, well, no man, like these dudes, like, know the bees. And the bees know them and they can feel the vibrations of what your intentions are. And I’m like, come on. I’m like, you’ve got to be– He’s like, I’m telling you, I go with the guy and I watch him do it. And I said, “I would love to check that out. I would love to watch that with my own eyes.” And he was like, “Well, let me ask him.” So. He asked him and the guy was like, “Shit, yeah. Have him come help us move a hive.”
So, the premises, you get a bee infestation, you call the exterminator, they come and they kill the bees. That is typically what happens. There are now people that you get an infestation for free. They will come to your place, or for a small fee, but typically for free. And they will come to your place. They will take apart your wall or they’ll take apart your tractor or wherever the infestation is. And they will find the queen bee and they transfer the queen bee into a box. And then, slowly but surely, all the bees that are infesting the particular place, the attic or the tree or whatever, they come over and they get into this box. And then the guy takes the box to his property and he sets up all these different beehives to live in harmony and live together and create this incredible honey, which not only is amazing tasting but just think about it, energetically.
If you think about it on an energetic level rather than murdering these bees, exterminating them, wiping them out, which let’s face it, if the bees die, we’re screwed. And the bees were already dying probably because of cell towers, or I don’t know if they ever figure out why all bees were dying, but because all the bees were dying, these people came up with the idea to go rescue the beehives and create what we use at SunLife Organics which is rescue honey. So, yeah, I went, I did it. You have to be careful to not take off your gloves while you’re doing it, which I did. I didn’t care. I picked up some of the honeycombs and opened it up, and I was able to eat that honey with my bare hands. I never got stung the entire time. The bees really do know. You can look at videos on YouTube where people have nothing on. I think that’s a really bad idea because if you ever agitate the bees or they think the queen is threatened, they will attack you. So, obviously, in that moment, the bees didn’t feel like I was going to attack the queen and they allowed me to open up a piece of that honeycomb and to eat that honey raw right from the thing. And so, yeah, and us buying it from them is furthering that action to rescue bees and create rescue honey.
Justin Donald: I love it. There’s just so much that we could unpackage here today based on our time. I mean, you talked about the soil. I don’t know if you know Zach Bush, but he’s big on the soil going bad and what we need to do to kind of protect our soil. Another thing that you talked about earlier on was a poverty mindset or mentality. And I just think that there is so much truth to the mindset that you have and what you’re going to attract in your life. If you are living in this poverty mindset, you will attract poverty and you will attract other people that are living in poverty, but as you learn to adopt an abundant mindset where you think about all the great things that you can have in this world, you’re going to tend to attract those things and people that resonate with that type of mantra. And I just think that that is a powerful point that I want to distinguish and the things that you’ve said here today. I think you’ve been really blessed on many levels also with the network that you have. So, during your downward spiral, you had a chance to kind of hang out with the who’s who, Hollywood celebrities, people that everyone would know.
And I just think it’s interesting to see how that has shown up in your life and then the friendships that you have from that today. I mean, there are some very well-known music acts and groups that you’re dear friends with today because of that season. And it’s cool to see you pull out of where you were, but to maintain friendships that were important to you and to partner up with one of the biggest names in, let’s just call it in the business world on your business. And I don’t know what names you want to share, what names you don’t want to share, no pressure either way, but you’ve rolled in some really cool circles of people. And I just wanted to point that out. I think your life experiences there have been really cool.
Khalil Rafati: So, as a kid, when I first went to L.A. and I was willing to work and I was a hard worker, I did get to rub elbows with a lot of– I was detailing cars, right? So, rich, famous people have fancy cars like Slash, for example, had a big car collection that he needed to be taken care of. And he introduced me to Axl. And then, I got a job working for Elizabeth Taylor and on and on and on and on. And that was cool. And some of those relationships, not those particular names that I just mentioned, but some of the other people that I got access to, I eventually started dealing weed to them and dealing ecstasy to them and just really didn’t nurture the relationships in the right way. And ultimately, they fell apart.
When I started to turn my life around. And more importantly, when I opened up SunLife Organics, a whole new set of people came in. And having been around those people early on, especially working for Elizabeth Taylor and watching how people were just constantly trying to grab a piece of her, grab a piece of her, I knew that the worst thing that you could ever do from somebody who was in a position of fame or power is to ask them for something. I mean, the number one guaranteed way that you are never, ever going to have a relationship with anybody that is super powerful or famous is to ask them for a selfie. The moment you do that, it’s over.
And yet, I watch it happen every single day in my businesses. Famous people walk in, people run up to them, and sometimes they say yes, sometimes they say no. Somebody like Kelly Slater, who’s one of my dear, dear and best friends, for whatever reason, he likes signing autographs or taking selfies with people. Rick Rubin never minds taking a picture with somebody, which seems really weird to me, but a lot of the other people that I’ve gotten to know and develop friendships with, they hate it, they cannot stand it. It really, really bothers them because it’s so not genuine, right?
If you really are a fan of somebody’s work, smile at them, or just say, “I don’t want to interrupt, I just want to let you know, I think you’re amazing.” And walk away, give to them if they really give to you, give to them, right? But the last thing you want to do is grab your phone and shove it in their face. Serve, nurture, take care of. And so, when I opened up SunLife Organics and these people started coming in, I went out of my way to leave them alone. It’s kind of like the opposite of what most people would do, but I went out of my way to treat them like regular folks. And eventually, in our training manual, you’ll see that it is a rule, that when a housekeeper or a plumber or a day laborer comes into SunLife, treat them like they are a rockstar. And when a rockstar or a movie star comes into SunLife, treat them like they are a housekeeper or a day laborer. Not degrading, but leave them the fuck alone. Leave them alone. Don’t bother them. Serve them. They’re there for a reason. Those people want to come into a place as well and get sustenance and maybe have someone smile at them or acknowledge them without asking them for something.
So, what ended up happening as a result over time were those people started to come in more and more and more. Some of the biggest names in the world would come in. The funny thing is, a lot of times people don’t recognize them. There are certain people whose names I’ll leave out but are literally some of the biggest stars on the planet that come in with just like a weird hat on or like a weird turtleneck or something, and people have no idea that that’s the guy that was in the highest-grossing film of last year, or there is a couple of guys that come into one of the Malibu locations that are literally in the biggest bands in the world, both of them are lead singers. You would think that people would immediately go, “Oh, my God.” And for whatever reason, I guess because they’re so chill, they’re so cool, they’re so normal, they come in with their kids, no one knows who it is.
And then, over time, some of those people would say things like, you want to come to my house and watch the game? Would you like to come to a UFC fight with me? Or I would like to be involved with your business, or I would like you to bring your girlfriend over and meet my girlfriend. And so, it’s really neat. I’ve been able to nurture those relationships and rather than sell them drugs, like I did as an idiot kid, I give them health and wellness to the best of my ability. And I think what you were making a reference to earlier, which is sort of ironic because I have the framed piece of paper right here, I’m in my office right now and I have like a bunch of cool stuff here.
I was at a Soho House in Malibu about a year and a half ago, and a very prominent, amazing, super successful billionaire named John Paul DeJoria, who’s one of the kindest, most loving, amazing people ever. He walked up to my table and started asking me questions and wanted to know if I’d be willing to bring SunLife Organics to Austin, Texas. And I just said, I was honest, which most people in a situation like that wouldn’t be honest. They would try to falsely represent themselves. And I just said, “Hey, listen, I don’t want to falsely represent myself. I’m not in a position to do something like that.” And he said, “Well, how much would it cost?” And I said, “like a million dollars.” And he’s like, “A million?” And I said, “A million or less.” And he said, “And what would I get?” And I said, “You would get 30% of the business.” And he said, “Would you give me more?” And I said, “No.” And he said, “No, you won’t give me more than that?” And I said, “No, because, again, the profit margins are tiny. It’s incredibly challenging to do one of these businesses.” And he said, “Well, what if I were to donate my share of the profits?” And I said, “Then, I would give you more.” He said, “Okay.” And he walked away.
And about 20 minutes later, he came over and he handed me this handwritten contract that he would give me a million dollars, and we would obviously pay that money back. And then, his percentage of the profit would go towards feeding homeless people and building them shelters and drug testing them and teaching them a vocation, like an actual solution to homelessness, which is a hot, contested subject here in Austin, Texas. Like, how dare we not let them camp? And how dare we not let them sleep in tents and panhandle? As a former homeless person, if you would have let me live like those people were living down by the river there, I’d still be there because I had to be held accountable for my actions. And if I was allowed to live in a tent and shoot drugs in the middle of the street and lay down and go to the bathroom in the middle of the street, and people were bringing me cases of bottled water in the morning and giving me money, and I mean, when I see these young, like, I would be willing to bet, Justin, and I know we’ve talked about this briefly, but I’d be willing to bet half the people that were living in those tents, if not more, are way smarter than me, they’re way younger than me, they’re way more competent and capable of achieving incredible things, but if you’re going to enable someone like that, if you’re going to give them food stamps and welfare and allow them to lay around and do drugs, and I’m not saying all of them because there are some critically mentally ill people that are also living in tents, but we need to take those people and we need to house them and we need to take care of them.
And then, the other people who are not mentally ill that are capable of working, we need to show them another way to live, to not stand there with their handout, but to go and work and prosper and be successful because if you would have enabled me like that, I wouldn’t be sitting in my brand-new beautiful house that’s paid for, I wouldn’t be the CEO of this incredible company, I wouldn’t be the author of a bestselling book, I wouldn’t be able to do all the different things that I get to do and travel all over the world and yeah, hang out with movie stars and rock stars and all that stuff. Like, let’s be honest, that’s just pretty cool, too. I’m being a little bit of a braggart, a pretentious asshole right now, but honestly, that stuff coming from Ohio to be able to travel around the world and go on tour with some of the bands that I have and to go watch Kelly win the Pipeline Masters in Hawaii or go, whatever, I’ve done some really, really awesome stuff, but had I been enabled back then? Almost encouraged, I would say because when I was staying at the Lion Hotel, I would watch people bringing them cases of bottled water in the morning and giving them money and bringing them food.
And I thought God, man, back when I was homeless and living on the streets and doing drugs if you would have done that with me, why would I have ever stopped? Why would I have stopped? You know why I stopped? Because when I went to pee outside or went to the bathroom outside, I got arrested, and they threatened me and said, “Next time, it’s indecent exposure.” When I was shooting up or smoking crack on the sidewalk, they grabbed my ass and they threw me in jail. When I was dealing drugs on the corner, they grabbed me and they threw me in jail. And I had to come up with bail, and if not, I had to dry out on a cold cement floor, which is what happened. And it happened enough times to where I became so uncomfortable and couldn’t take one more beating and couldn’t handle one more seizure and couldn’t go hungry one more day to where I raised my hand and I surrendered. And a lot of people think surrender is weak or surrender is bad.
Surrender is joining the winning team. I surrender, I raise my hand, I surrender, I join the winning team. I ask God for help. I was willing to get up and go to work and chop wood and carry water. And as a result, I get to be a millionaire. I get to travel around the world. I get to meet cool people like you. I get to go work out at Cal’s house and high five MMA fighters, and like all that amazing stuff that gets to happen because I was held accountable and because I was willing to surrender. Because I was willing to get on my knees and ask God for help, I have this incredible fantasy, wonderful Life beyond my wildest dreams.
Justin Donald: Khalil, thank you so much for sharing your incredible story with us. And I just feel so blessed to have learned about this and for so many people to live vicariously through you and to avoid some of the mistakes that you made. And I just love what you’ve been able to do with your life, with intentionality and with just letting go. And so, thank you for being open and willing to put you to the side and even tell us how things went. And we’ve got to wrap things up here today, but where can our audience go to learn more about your book and SunLife Organics?
Khalil Rafati: Both of my books are available on Amazon. And I would say start with I Forgot to Die because that’s the memoir. What has happened to quite a few people at the end of I Forgot to Die, after hearing that harrowing story of living in hell, crawling my way out of hell, and then ultimately, finding redemption, a lot of people were like, oh, okay, well, then what? I mean, he must have had family money, or somebody must have stepped in and given him something. So, because I kept getting so many DMs like that, I thought, no, you know what? I will then in my second book, Remembering to Live, I will literally put line by line how I went from being penniless and homeless to becoming a millionaire, and that’s the Remembering to Live book, but both of those are available on Amazon.
I’m on Instagram @khalilrafati, K-H-A-L-I-L R-A-F-A-TI. I’m not on Instagram as much as I used to be. If you scroll down about 40 posts, you’ll see a bunch of really pretentious, shallow sort of look at me, notice me, pics of me on private jets, and stuff like that, which to me today, it’s embarrassing. First of all, they weren’t my private jets. And even though I said that in the post, like, this isn’t my private jet, this isn’t my penthouse, this isn’t… What is it about myself that felt so compelled to constantly post that stuff? It’s sad. I don’t need to post that stuff. People that actually own private jets or people that actually can afford $20,000 penthouses, they don’t put pictures of it on Instagram. It’s pathetic. And I learned a lot about myself sort of observing how I was behaving on social media, but people can check out me on Instagram. Most of my stuff today is about inspirational quotes and about truth and about honesty, maybe a little bit of humble bragging as well.
Justin Donald: Well, I’ve got to tell you, just your vulnerability is so refreshing, and I appreciate that. And I just want to share with our audience again, take one step, take some form of action, and move towards financial freedom and the life that you desire to build on your terms. We’ll catch you next week.