How This Dating School for Men Grew Out of a Basement

Two graduate students developed a podcast into The Art of Charm, a business that teaches charisma and social skills.
April 25, 2012

Some small businesses have humble beginnings.

The idea for The Art of Charm, a Los Angeles and New York-based dating school for men, all grew out of a basement near the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Jordan Harbinger was studying to be a lawyer. His friend AJ was in graduate school studying to be a biologist.

After meeting at a local bar, they bonded over their love of socializing and meeting women. One night, after teaching other men how to pick up women, they decided to create an iTunes podcast on the topic that they recorded out of a basement. While the so-called “Pickup Podcast" started with a modest number of followers, it quickly grew attracting several thousand listeners within a few months.

As the podcast continued to gain popularity, possibilities for other business opportunities became apparent, says Harbinger, who continued the podcast on the side after moving to New York for a Wall Street law firm job.

“We had hundreds and thousands of listeners and then 10,000 listeners,” he says. “Guys would call or email and say 'I want to learn from you guys in person.'”

After less than a year at the firm, Harbinger was laid off as the recession hit. At the same time, the Pickup Podcast had received more than 1 million downloads in a year. So  Jordan and AJ teamed up with Johnny Dzubak, a touring musician, and The Art of Charm was formed.

Today, The Art of Charm offers a range of seminars and classes for men looking to increase their social skills, whether for dating or networking. Thousands of people from across the United States and the world have attended the school's programs, according to Harbinger.

“We like to teach that natural charisma that most people think either you are born it with it or not. Our slogan is “Charm: either you have it or you learn it from us,” he says. “There is a myth that charisma is something inate. What we do here is we take normal guys, or guys that need a little help and we supercharge their level of charisma.”

Harbinger, who was miserable in the corporate legal world, says that he has found his passion in being an entrepreneur.

“I need this crazy constant variety and all of the business drama that comes with it,” he says. “The 9 to 5 is just not for me.”

He encouraged other potential entrepreneurs to take the leap, citing that he and his business partners had little business background when they started.

“No one knows how to run a business until they try,” he said. “I was a lawyer. AJ was a biologist; he was studying cancer in a lab. Johnny is a rock musician. All we did was start working.”

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