Our Story


SunLife Organics exists for three simple reasons— to love, heal and inspire. This isn’t just a juice bar, it’s a way of life fueled by the belief that you matter. We view each interaction as a valued opportunity to connect and make a positive impact on someone’s life, however big or small, because you deserve to be loved. We’re committed to serving our communities the highest quality organic ingredients Mother Nature has to offer, because you deserve to be healed. We never stop growing, learning, listening and sharing, because you deserve to be inspired. When you walk through our doors you are invited to be yourself, just as you are. We hope to see you soon.

 

KHALIL RAFATI, Founder/ Owner

In 2003, I had reached the peak of suffering the high cost of low living. I was 33 years old, weighed 109 pounds and was living on the streets of Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles, addicted to heroin and cocaine. With nowhere to go but up, I decided to get sober. Although the future started looking brighter, I was still smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, eating junk food and drinking copious amounts of coffee and energy drinks. I always felt completely drained and devoid of energy. Depression was a constant. 

I was soon introduced to juicing and superfoods by a friend of mine. The results were remarkable and instantaneous. I began to feel alive again— my anxiety quickly replaced by excitement and a renewed lust for life. I started getting more and more adventurous in my kitchen, trying to find a way to make all these amazing natural remedies more palatable, even crave-able, so they would be a part of my daily routine that I looked forward to.

So began my journey (some would say obsession) with finding and consuming the best products nature has to offer. I travelled extensively all over India, Indonesia and Central America, constantly asking questions, learning everything I could from gurus to surf bums, Ayurvedic doctors to street vendors. Here in the States, I explored what traditional Western medicine had to offer. I also went to longevity specialists, as well as a handful of so-called ‘healers’. In the end, I found that the truth was not much different than what most people’s grandmothers advised: ‘eat your fruits and veggies’. By eating a diet of organic whole foods— with the addition of some superfoods, regular exercise, a lot of love and compassion from friends and neighbors, and a daily practice of trying to do good deeds for others without getting caught— I found that I didn’t need a guru or ‘healer’ or Western medicine to recover.

In 2011, after joining forces with my business partner Hayley Gorcey, we opened the doors to the first SunLife Organics in Malibu, California with a simple mission: to love, heal and inspire. We wanted to share with our friends, neighbors and members of the community an opportunity to experience what I had— to provide access to true nourishment. We wanted a place where people could go for organic juices, organic smoothies, organic salads, organic everything really. But beyond that, we wanted a place where we could come together and re-connect as a community, away from our iPads, smartphones, and "social networks"; a place to elevate the human spirit and help us get back to basics. We wanted to hire kids from the local community and provide a fun, safe and sober environment for them to learn, grow and thrive.

SunLife Organics isn’t a juice bar. It’s an experience fueled by the simple but profound joy of human connection and an unrelenting commitment to quality. I hope to meet you soon.

HAYLEY GORCEY, CoFounder/ Owner

I moved to Malibu right after my eighth birthday. Every place has its own kind of magic, but Malibu’s resonated with the very core of my being— the water, the mountains, the people, the atmosphere. I believe we’re always where we’re meant to be, but sometimes it's more obvious than others. My first job in Malibu was at a local juice bar/ vitamin shop, where I worked for several years. Khalil was a regular customer there. I remember he used to bring in his own organic superfood ingredients and talk me through how to make the “Wolverine”, which would later become the first recipe for the menu at SunLife Organics.

I had always been loosely drawn to health and wellness, but even as I explored things like ginger shots and blue-green algae at my new job, I still considered Cinnamon Toast Crunch an acceptable lunch choice. Khalil’s passion for health and wellness inspired me to explore what a more wholehearted shift into these life choices would be like. Instead of dropping into a yoga or Pilates class a few times a year, I started exercising 4-5 days a week. We did 30 day detoxes and I learned what a colonic was, fortunately or unfortunately (still not sure). I stopped eating fast food and started experimenting with recipes I found online, like raw squash ravioli with cashew cream sauce. The further down this path I went, the better I felt and the less attracted I was to put anything in my body that would deplete me of more than it gave me.

In December 2007, Khalil opened a sober living facility in Malibu called Riviera Recovery, which he later sold. It was second nature to him to help guide people on a path to recovery, but he was admittedly overwhelmed with the business side of the operation. Though still in school at UCLA, I quit my job and helped Khalil run Riviera Recovery full time. What I lacked in professional experience, I made up for in tenacity and a commitment to learn and grow. One foot in front of the other, we played to our strengths and made it work.

Throughout that time, Khalil never gave up on his dream of opening what would one day become SunLife Organics. Given the yin/yang like balance of our strengths, somewhere over the years it had become clear that we were going to do it together. I was 22 years old when we opened the doors to the first SunLife Organics in Point Dume. Since that very first day, we have been driven by the values of heart, integrity, authenticity and altruism and with each day that passes, I grow more inspired by and committed to those values. I hope when you walk in the door of any SunLife Organics, you feel the same.

Why the Pink Lotus? 

It was tough, but by the grace of God I am alive and happy now. I am grateful to be where I am and would not be in the position I am in had I not gone through all that pain. Strange paradox, but my reality nonetheless. That's why I chose the pink lotus as the symbol for SunLife Organics— from the mud and darkness grows a beautiful flower. That's why I chose the name SunLife— Life in the Sun. It's not just a catchy name and logo, it's who we are. #lifeinthesun - Khalil Rafati

 

You can read more about Khalil's story in his book: I Forgot To Die