On the first evening of Spring Break, Miles Bukiet ’11 was enjoying a birthday dinner with his friends and family in their Upper West Side apartment. Everyone was glad to see him back from school, and he would have loved to relax with them into the night. A few minutes into the meal, however, Bukiet had to excuse himself and head upstairs to join his friend and mentor, Chris Luna, who was in the middle of coaching a $4000, ten-week dating course. Bukiet and Luna have spent the last year developing the dating program, which they were running out of Bukiet’s home.
“I’m like, ‘okay I’ll just go say hi to these guys and then I’ll run back down to my family,’” he said. “I was so happy to see them and to hear about what they had been doing and see their progress that I ended up spending like an hour and a half hanging out with them and helping them with where they were at.”
Bukiet first met Luna last June at his free lecture on “social dynamics” at Columbia University. Drawn to the lecture because of his longstanding interest in psychology and human interaction, Bukiet was surprised yet intrigued to discover that Luna spent the whole lecture giving dating advice.
He passed up Luna’s sales pitch for a $100 relationship workshop and instead approached him to ask if his dating and relationship-coaching firm, Craft of Charisma, was accepting interns. Luna informed him that he was not, but left Bukiet with a copy of his contact information.
Bukiet soon followed up with a phone call, at which point Luna once again told him that he was not looking for interns, but that he could send his resume anyway.
“At that point, I was about to give up. But then I was like, ‘fuck it, you only live once,’” Bukiet said. “It seemed really exciting. Who does this stuff? Is it for real?”
So Bukiet made yet another attempt to contact Luna, this time offering his services free of charge.
“I called him up and asked him, ‘What if I do some marketing for you for free?’” Bukiet said. “And I mean you have to be a retard to say no to that.”
He was hired.
Summer of Love
Although Bukiet said that he helped Luna with “a little bit of everything,” his job originally consisted of helping Luna attract clients to his workshops.
“When we used to get clients back in the day it was straight up hustling,” Bukiet said. “You’d go to somebody else’s event, make yourself a presence, get people’s contact information, sell hard.”
Then Bukiet began to recruit people to Luna’s Saturday lectures.
“One thing led to another, and I was doing marketing with him,” Bukiet said. “We started hanging out a lot more and I became really good friends with him as well, to the point that by the end of the summer we were roommates.”
As Luna and Bukiet’s friendship grew, so did their goals for the firm, Craft in Charisma.
“I would sit down to lunch with Chris somewhere in the city and we’d just scheme and run through ideas and come up with projects” Bukiet said. “That was how it started really.”
At this point in the summer, Luna’s business plan was based on a series of one-night workshops. Ranging in cost between $100-$300, the workshops began in Luna’s New York City apartment where he taught social strategies via lecture and role-play. The classes culminated in a trip to a nightclub where clients could put these strategies to use.
According to Bukiet, these workshops were based on the philosophy that social success comes from confidence and “swag.” At the workshops, clients were coached on the subtleties of body language, storytelling, and starting conversations with strangers. Bukiet said they emphasize skills, such as the importance of good posture, moving with confidence, and conversation.
“A huge idea that the company is founded on is that who you are socially is not determinant,” Bukiet said. “Whether somebody is perceived as cool or sexy or awkward or has good style or any of the other labels that we apply to people are just based on their practices and their habits which can be changed with conscious effort.”
Although clients often returned for more than one workshop, the entrepreneurial duo believed that their methods would be most effective if taught as part of a long-term course.
“Part of it is that the process takes time,” Bukiet said. “We would change people’s lives in one night but the likelihood that they would revert to old habits is incredibly high. So we came up with the idea of having consistent programs, which worked way better on a lot of different levels.”
Craft of Charisma was set to launch their first thirteen-week program in September, on a date that corresponded almost precisely with the start of Wesleyan’s fall term, leaving Miles with a difficult choice.
“I’m working with people who I really like and creating an enterprise in the world that’s worthwhile and changing people’s lives,” Bukiet said. “And I think ‘Why would I go back to Wesleyan right now?’ If I don’t find out where this opportunity goes, I’m always going to regret it.”
Bukiet informed his parents of his decision to take fall semester off, and began arrangements with his class dean.
“Eventually it got through [to my parents] that this wasn’t negotiable,” Bukiet said.
Tricks of the Trade
As Bukiet took on Craft of Charisma as his full-time pursuit, he began to assume more of an instructive role in the company, putting the knowledge that he learned from Luna to full use. He stopped working as an unpaid intern and began to receive a portion of the profits.
His skills were put to the test one Saturday in early November, when an airline delay prevented Luna from returning to New York in time for their scheduled Saturday evening class.
“[Luna] called me up and he was like, ‘what should we do? Should we cancel it?’” Bukiet said. “I was like, ‘fuck it Chris, I’ll just do it.’”
Bukiet ended up leading what he considered to be a highly successful class.
“Everybody had had a remarkable night and so I just felt so proud of everybody involved,” he said.
What do Dating and Global Warming Have in Common?
Bukiet says that the skills he is learning from his work in the field of dating and relationship coaching will help him to follow his true passion – environmental justice.
“The environmental movement is a communication gap between the science of global warming and the way most people in the world relate to it in their lives, their personal lives, and their habits,” said Bukiet.
He believes that the same skills that are necessary to succeed in the dating world are also essential in environmental policy reform.
“The connection between global warming and dating advice that I’m trying to draw is that it’s about learning to work with people and learning to be with people and understand people and being in tune with their feelings, what’s motivating them and what’s driving them”
The Client Always Knows Best
Bukiet noted that the success of his clients is measured on an individual level, and that each client is looking for something different, be it a long-term relationship or a one-night stand. Though Craft of Charisma almost exclusively offers services geared towards men, Bukiet said he hopes the company will soon expand to offer instruction for women as well.
“Our job is just to remain open to what they want and to give them skill sets that they can use to pursue any of the different avenues when it comes to the world of dating and relationships,” Bukiet said.
Bukiet is also actively striving to deconstruct the stigmas that often accompany dating services.
“There’s a misconception that our clients are somehow weird, awkward, abnormal sorts of others,” Bukiet said. “But in fact they’re some of the most on-it individuals I know, in terms of their candor with who they are and who they want to be, and their really ballsy willingness to step up and take ownership for their lives.”