It started as a simple idea centered around how to make more friends. Jordan Harbinger was attending law school and wanted to meet new people, so he Googled “how to make more friends.” His interest in the psychology of social dynamics instantly piqued, and he realized trying to meet and make new friends wasn’t that different from trying to pick up women.
The concept brought Jordan closer to his friend, A.J. Harbinger*. “I was passive and I was introverted; it hurt my relationships at work because I was so uncomfortable,” said A.J. Thanks to Jordan, A.J. said he learned how to be comfortable with his insecurities. “Now instead of closing myself off, I’m showing off my weaknesses and being comfortable with them,” he said.
Mutual friends noticed a difference and began asking the duo for help on the dating scene. It led to A.J. and Jordan co-founding The Art of Charm, which is based on the “nuances of seduction and ways to self-improvement.”
“It’s learning how to communicate," says Jordan. "We call it ‘hiding the broccoli.’ If you are trying to get a kid to eat broccoli, you have to put cheese all over it. This is the same. If you tell a guy ‘Let’s talk about how to become more confident and open up to people, they’ll tell you ‘Go eat your granola somewhere else.’ If you tell them ‘This is how you meet more chicks,’ they say ‘Okay, where do I sign up?’”
With this ideology, Jordan and A.J. started a dating “PickUp” podcast. Akin to Will Smith in Hitch, Jordan and A.J have re-crafted the art of matchmaking, growing a simple college podcast into a full-time business.
After finishing graduate school, Jordan went to Wall Street to become a real estate finance attorney and A.J. stayed behind in Michigan, working in a cancer research laboratory. They kept the show going, spending weekends working on their pet project, and eventually, their side business turned into a full-time dating company that now makes seven figures. The friends also now co-host their weekly “Game On” show on Sirius (Channel 108) and XM Satellite (Channel 139) every Friday night 8-10 p.m. EST. To expand their business, the pair launched an Art of Charm app in June 2010 that was developed by a fan who did it for free in exchange for attending one of their week-long programs free of charge. It’s been downloaded more than 5,000 times.
For $4,000, any man can buy a week-long training session (which doesn’t include airfare) and go to the Art of Charm’s headquarters, which recently relocated from New York City to Los Angeles. Approximately 500 men have gone through their program, flying from around the world to attend.
So what about targeting women as a customer base as well? The duo tried it, but killed the idea because females “have a higher refund rate on everything,” Jordan said. “And women have a good idea of what works for them [already] since 90 percent is just looking more attractive and filtering out the guys they don’t like.”
*A.J. uses Harbinger (Jordan's real last name) as a pseudonym and declined to give his real last name. The two are not related.
Dawn Reiss is a Chicago-based journalist who has eaten crickets in Cambodia, climbed waterfalls in Jamaica and gone dog sledding in Alaska for assignments.