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19-year-old CEO reveals the future of her Chinese English name–selling website

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Beau Jessup gained global headlines in 2016 after featuring in BBC Newsbeat as the 16-year-old British girl that made £48,000 (~$63,500) from a website, Special Name, developed to help Chinese parents in choosing an English name for their babies. Now making hundreds of thousands of dollars through the uncanny business, Jessup is funding her way through the university and investing in properties but thinks her career will only need the business experience.

The then 16-year-old was inspired in 2015 to start Special Name, a business venture that provides culturally appropriate English names for Chinese babies. The young CEO named around 200,000 Chinese babies after six months of business, making over $60,000. Now the multi-million dollar business has made estimated revenues of more than $400,000 from naming 680,000+ babies.

The birth of Special Name

Jessup was traveling with her father in China when Mrs. Wang, one of her father’s business associates, asked for help in providing a suitable English name for her 3-year-old daughter.

She was surprised and felt honored to receive such a request. “It seemed like a really important thing to do,” Jessup told CNBC Make it in an interview.

Jessup asked Mrs. Wang to share little information about the hopes she has for her daughter. This is to help in providing an “appropriate” name. Inspired by Eliza Doolittle’s bold and quick-witted character in “My Fair Lady,” Jessup suggested “Eliza” after Wang’s information meant she wanted people to be surprised by her daughter’s achievements.

Deeply pleased by Jessup’s suggestion, Wang explained the significance of having an English name to Chinese people.

All babies in China are given a Chinese name with carefully crafted meaning. But most of these Chinese people find it difficult to interact with English-speakers if they don’t also have a Western name. Internet censorship and language barrier often limit efforts to research on appropriate names that would possibly coincide with their Chinese names.

China ended its “one-child policy” in 2015, with birthrate having increased to 17.86 million according to China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission. In Jessup’s mind, this could be an opportunity.

Other parents would be pleased to receive this service if Wang needed it, Jessup said.

Coming back to the UK, Jessup took a loan of £1,500 (~ $1,980) from her father to set up Special Name. The then A-level student hired a freelance web developer to build the website and she began filling the database with names at her spare time – a process that has since been automated.

The young CEO named around 200,000 Chinese babies after six months of business

Special Name suggest baby names using five characters

The website requires users to select five characteristics that most likely represent the hopes they have for their babies. An algorithm will provide three gender-sensitive names after a spin to match with the selected characters. To avoid “cultural mistakes” and settle for the most appropriate name, users are encouraged to share the suggested names with friends and family.

The website has a direct link to WeChat, Chinese most populous messaging app, where Jessup has since depend on for advertisement.

After naming 162,000 babies for free, Jessup introduced a fee of 60 pence (~ 80 cents). As of the time of this writing, the website has named 680,319 babies. That’s roughly £310,991.4 (~ $410,341).

Beau Jessup talks about the future of Special Name

Having returned his father’s loan with interest, Jessup told that her earnings from the largely self-sufficient website have gone to property investment and in paying her University fees. She’s currently studying Social Anthropology at the London School of Economics.

Though a small team is managing the website’s technical operations, “the business is fully automated” Jessup said. “I update the database each month.”

Beau Jessup disclosed that Special Name would not be a part of her future though she values the experience. The business is up for sale as she hopes to sell the business to a company who “shares my vision for Special Name.”

“I hope to use what I have learned from Special Name so that I can add value to other businesses,” Jessup said.

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