Meet Beau Jessup, a 19-year-old British student who had a unique idea and made a profitable business out of it. Jessup is the founder and CEO of Special Name, a website that provides English names to Chinese parents for their babies.
It all started back in 2015 when Jessup was travelling to China with her father for business when one of his associates named Mrs. Wang asked Jessup for some ideas on an English name for her three-year-old daughter.
“I was honoured and surprised,” said Jessup. “It seemed like a really important thing to do.”
Jessup wanted to put thought into the process and asked for more information on the child and asked the mother about her hopes for her daughter.
Mrs. Wang said she wanted people to be surprised at what her daughter could achieve, which gave Jessup the idea of “Eliza” from the fictional heroine Eliza Doolittle of “My Fair Lady.”
Mrs. Wang loved the name and further explained the importance of Chinese parents choosing an appropriate English name for their children. She said how babies are given well thought out Chinese names consisting of two or three characters with a specific meaning.
The Chinese interact easier with native English-speakers if they have an English name; however, find it difficult to construct an appropriate one. What would happen was that teachers would assign random English names to the student without proper research and knowledge as to their meaning.
In a 2017 Ted Talk, Jessup explained the importance of having a Western name for the Chinese. “If you don’t have a Western name, you can’t email, purchase online, or basically function in the 21st century,” said Jessup.
She found her niche at the restrictions of access to online content that parents have in China. “On the Internet in China, a lot of it is censored and a majority of the websites are restricted,” Jessup mentioned. She added that the majority of baby naming sites are in English which parents have a hard time navigating.
Jessup gave examples of names that were provided without awareness on its attribution. “Chan Kong-Sang” derived from Jackie Chan or “universities receiving applications from Goofy Li, Rolex Wang, and Gandalf Wu,” added Jessup.
“Mums everywhere have one thing in common – that they want the best for their child,” said Jessup. Special Name provides names for parents based on the child’s characteristics.
The business itself is sustainable because there are 16 million babies born in China every year, noted Jessup. “I thought it might be profitable to help,” she said.
The interface of the site itself is user-friendly, where one can choose between a girl or a boy’s name. The parents would then select five characteristics from the 12 provided that best describes their child. Examples are: elegant, creative, optimistic, reliable, intuitive, and the like.
The parent pays for the service via PayPal for 79 cents (around S$1) and is given three name suggestions with their corresponding meanings as well as two examples of famous people with those names.
Jessup even included a share button below the suggestions where parents could ask their friends and family for feedback which also serves as an excellent marketing strategy for the site.
She started by filling in the database with 4,000 names but now uses an algorithm to do the work for her.
At first, the service was offered for free, but after 162,000 names and counting, Jessup saw the potential of the business and started charging a fee.
To date, the site has named over 682,000 babies, which is estimated to have cost $410,895 (S$556,885).
In an interview with news.com.au, Jessup shared that she uses her earnings to pay for her university fees, property investments, and to pay off her loan (she borrowed $1,980 (S$2,683) from her father to develop the website) with interest.