As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Ira Antelis, an inspired and accomplished musician, inventor and entrepreneur.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
“21 days”. That’s what the doctor said. You’ve got 21 days to lower your blood pressure or we have to do surgery. You see I had an issue with my aortic valve and the high blood pressure was making my health issue a ticking time bomb. The doctor put me on medication, and I knew because of the side effects I needed to find another solution.
As a music producer who has never cooked anything but oatmeal, the last thing you’d expect from me was to create the first functional beverage that could lower people’s blood pressure. But that health scare put me on a path to not only educate myself on all the things I could do to lower my blood pressure, but to create 120/Life the first functional beverage for the 100 million Americans with high blood pressure
For background, I named the beverage 120/Life because blood pressure numbers of less than 120/80 mm Hg are considered within the normal range. Hence, 120 is “shorthand” for healthy blood pressure.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Two stories come to mind. The first involves my cousin Peter Levy, who, like me, has a history of high blood pressure. Peter’s a pretty skeptical guy. When I invited him to try 120/Life, he was like “Yeah, this isn’t going to work.”
But here’s the thing: Peter owns a large, successful distribution company — a company that could distribute 120/Life. So, I made him a bet. I said, “Drink 120/Life for two weeks. If it lowers your blood pressure, you have to come on board and distribute the product.” Peter’s blood pressure dropped nearly 40 points — and suddenly 120/Life had a distributor.
Another interesting story involves a guy named Carl Batson, who called me out of the blue one day in 2017 saying that he’d seen me talking about 120/Life on TV and wanted to order a 3-month supply.
Carl, who was in his 60’s had very high blood pressure — even higher than mine was when I invented 120/Life. I suggested he start with a one-month supply, but he insisted on buying three months of the product.
A few weeks later, Carl called me and said that drinking 120/Life every day had caused his blood pressure to drop by over 90 points– and he said he believed it had saved his life.
That might have been the moment when I knew for sure that we were onto something big.
Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?
As I mentioned, I had a serious blood-pressure related health scare in 2016. My doctor gave me 21 days to somehow lower my blood pressure or undergo heart surgery. Plainly put, fear of that surgery drove me to begin researching blood pressure, including causes, symptoms and most importantly — treatments.
Although I was a musician by trade, my dad was a pharmacist. I truly believe I was channeling his passion for helping people improve their health as I delved into the science of high blood pressure. I knew there were blood pressure medications, including some that had been prescribed to me over the years. But what really piqued my curiosity were natural substances, such as beet powder, pomegranate juice and hibiscus tea, that have been shown in studies to lower blood pressure.
There are 100 million Americans — including about half of the adult U.S. population over 60 — with high blood pressure. So at some point, I thought, someone must have thought to combine natural ingredients into a food or drink that lowers blood pressure. I scoured the internet but found nothing. So I resolved to create a product that combined a “dream team” of natural ingredients for lowering blood pressure — all of which are supported by clinical evidence.
To make sure I wasn’t crazy, I called my old childhood friend, Susan Schachter, a practicing Nutritionist. Susan reviewed and validated my ingredients. She also suggested we add Magnesium, which has also been shown to lower blood pressure. And Susan helped me optimize ingredient proportions for maximum synergy and effectiveness. At the same time, I started doing calculations that led me to believe that that if I were to combine the aforementioned six ingredients into a beverage, and if someone were to drink the beverage on a regular basis, they could expect that their blood pressure would go down by about 40%.
The numbers were intriguing: 100 million Americans with high blood pressure. Six ingredients combined into one beverage. A 40% reduction in blood pressure. That sounded pretty exciting to me.
How do you think this will change the world?
Each year, billions of U.S. healthcare dollars are spent treating patients with heart disease and strokes — 80% of whom have high blood pressure. By reducing blood pressure, 120/Life will reduce heart disease and strokes. This will lower healthcare costs and free up money to be re-allocated toward other critical healthcare areas.
We’ve also created a “Know Your Numbers” campaign. Half of the 100 million Americans with high blood pressure (i.e., 50 million Americans) don’t know they have high blood pressure. We’re determined for a percentage of these people to find out what their blood pressure is and take action to lower it.
Yes. One concern that I’ve had since the beginning is that even if 120/Life helps you lower your blood pressure into normal range, you should never decide on your own to stop taking your blood pressure medication. You should always consult your doctor before making any decisions with respect to medication.
Another concern is that other companies may create knockoffs that aren’t as effective as 120/Life. I formulated 120/Life based on clinical studies and through extensive product development cycles led by a team of experts. That’s why it works as well as it does. I would hate for a consumer to fall for an inferior product. Candidly, the difference could mean life or death.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?
The tipping point was my own health scare, which I’ve explained. However, there was a kind of a “second tipping point” in 2017 when a musician friend of mine had a blood pressure emergency. 120/Life helped him lower his blood pressure by 50 points in just a few weeks. I already knew by then that 120/Life helps naturally lower blood pressure. But I was astounded nonetheless. It was at that moment that I really saw 120/Life’s ability to change and save lives — and ever since then it’s been ‘full speed ahead’. What made this moment so meaningful to me? I suppose it’s because the person using 120/Life was a friend of mine with young kids. Having lost my first wife when my daughter was 8 years old I knew we had to get him help to be there for his children.
What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?
To realize 120/Life’s potential to change and save lives, we need to create mass awareness. And to drive mass awareness, we need funds for marketing and advertising.
By leveraging contacts I made through my career in music and advertising I’ve been able to secure numerous radio and TV appearances. And every time I create exposure for 120/Life through a media appearance, we see a real lift in website traffic and sales. So, we know our story is compelling. People — especially younger people — want alternatives to synthetic blood pressure medications, and when they learn about our natural solution, they gravitate towards it.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.
1. Success doesn’t happen immediately. What’s important is that every day, you do everything you can to move the venture forward.
2. Believe in your ideas but be willing to research an explore nuances and alternatives. There’s always a way to improve your concept.
3. Know your costs — down to the penny.
4. Surround yourself with great (i.e. smart, ambitious, resilient) people who are passionate about the brand mission.
5. No matter what you do, there will be obstacles and setbacks that make you want to give up. Don’t. I invented a word — “Sticktuivness.” If you believe in your idea, you have to stick to it and order ‘it’ to succeed
The future of work is a common theme. What can one do to “future proof” their career?
I don’t really know if you can “future proof” your career. There’s nothing guaranteed in life and you can’t guarantee your job will always be there. However, as I have always said, “I’ll out-hour anyone”. There’s simply no way around the time commitment and sacrifices that go into creating business success. If you can’t put the time in, success will be a long way off.
Based on the future trends in your industry, if you had a million dollars, what would you invest in?
I believe that today’s younger generation is far more interested in natural solutions than any generation in history. At least once a week, someone asks me to create a natural beverage for high cholesterol, arthritis, etc. If I had a million dollars to invest, I’d put it in natural health solutions — especially solutions like 120/Life that are affordable, easily accessible (i.e. no prescription required) taste great and don’t require significant behavior change.
Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?
As mentioned, “I’ll out hour anyone.” Success isn’t just about ideas and talent. It’s about dedication and perseverance. Everything I have achieved in life stems from that ethic.
Treat everyone with a smile and a hug. Find good people to work with who feel the same way. This is something I learned from my father and is a closely held belief.
Failure happens. Very few people achieve success the first time out. It’s okay to fail, but you have to learn from your mistakes and keep moving forward.
Own your mistakes. For much of my life mistakes were always someone else’s fault. However, when I finally started to accept responsibility, I achieved greater success than ever before.
Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?
Though it’s difficult sometimes, it’s important to maintain a positive outlook. No matter what your idea is, who’s behind you or how much money you have in the bank, problems happen. When your venture hits a speed bump (or a huge Chicago-style pothole), your body language and tone of voice has a direct effect on those around you.
As a leader, you have to “re-inspire” yourself. You have to go back to why you started the business in the first place and touch base with that initial spark, that passion. Think back to that moment (for example, when 120/Life helped my music producer friend reduce his blood pressure by 50 points) when you first experienced the real power of your idea. When you do that and then you come back to whatever obstacle is now standing before you, you realize that you’re unstoppable.
Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
A hundred million U.S. adults have high blood pressure. High blood pressure causes heart disease and strokes. It ruins and ends lives. And it puts a massive financial strain on our healthcare system.
We’ve created a solution. No prescription or pills. 120/Life is a great tasting beverage made with six natural ingredients, each of which has been clinically proven to reduce blood pressure. We’ve combined them — in perfect proportion — to create the first beverage that can help you maintain healthy blood pressure.
120/Life will change and save lives, and ease the strain on our healthcare system. To put it even more plainly, high blood pressure kills people. 120/Life kills high blood pressure.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.
The son of a pharmacist, Ira grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and attended Manhattan School of Music. After graduating in 1980, he taught music theory, composition and piano at NYU. He also began writing advertising jingles for Sid Woloshin, who, at the time, ran New York City’s most successful advertising music company. Ira also began pursuing his other love, songwriting, and had his first music placement in 1982, with Atlantic recording artist Yollanda McCullough.
In 1983 Ira found work in Chicago and ended up moving there in 1985 to teach for Bill Russo at Columbia College. Connections that Ira formed within the local music community led to opportunities to compose and produce music for several top Chicago-area music companies.
In 1987 Ira partnered with noted Chicago composer Steve Shafer to create ShaferAntelis Music. Their newly formed company found success, with annual billings of nearly $2MM.
Working with major Chicago ad agencies, Ira and Steve wrote and produced music for leading consumer brands including McDonald’s, Gatorade, Kraft, Kellogg’s and S.C. Johnson. Their joyful Be Like Mikejingle for Gatorade was heralded as the advertising industry’s most acclaimed musical composition, winning countess awards and appearing on several movie soundtracks.
In 1989, as ShaferAntelis Music continued to thrive, Ira composed his first musical. Just One World played in Chicago and was quickly snapped up by world-class theatrical producer Daryl Roth, who wanted to take it to Broadway.
In 1992 Ira and Steve parted ways and Ira launched his own music company. Though still working regularly in advertising, Ira also started producing records for the House of Blues label and formed a production deal with Columbia Records. Through these partnerships, Ira produced a slew of tribute albums for Janis Joplin, Aerosmith and Jim Croce. These compilations were graced by a stellar cast of supporting artists such as Charlie Daniels, Etta James, Kim Carnes, Lou Graham and Marshal Crenshaw.
In 1997 Patti LaBelle recorded Flame, a song Ira penned with Brenda Russell, and which became the name and title song of LaBelle’s next album. Around the same time, recording superstar Marc Anthony recorded No One, another song written by Ira, and which would go on to sell over 3 million records.
Ira’s next big move was to branch into writing two theme songs for Walt Disney World — Remember the Magicand Celebrate the Future, featuring A-list recording artists such as Christina Aguilera, Gloria Estefan, Brian McKnight and Shawn Colvin.
From 2000–2011, Ira served as Composer-in-Residence/Music Director at Leo Burnett, creating music for many of the agency’s biggest clients and projects. Ira also founded or co-founded several imaginative and successful music ventures, including Artists & Brands (a partnership with McDonald’s), Music Dealers (a world-renown music licensing company), Helped to consult on startup Audiotree (global music streaming), and New Chapter Productions (video production and reality TV).
In 2016, Ira’s career took an unexpected and intriguing turn when dangerously high blood pressure led him to create 120/Life, the great tasting natural way to maintain healthy blood pressure. His creativity turned to making a functional beverage to help people. Today, 120/Life is available online and is achieving healthy growth.