For someone who struggles to name a plant or a dog, the idea of coming up with a name for an actual human is terrifying. Because if you screw it up, they could be left with a name like ‘Greg’ or ‘Delilah’ for eternity. Yikes.
But for parents of Chinese babies looking for appropriate westernised names to give their children, it’s reportedly even harder, which led to 19-year-old British teenager Beau Jessup founding Special Name, a website dedicated to helping Asian parents find English names for their kids.
Jessup told CNBC she was inspired to start the business in 2015 after her father’s friend asked for help naming her three-year-old, and after a short consultation, she suggested ‘Eliza’, after the main character from My Fair Lady.
Chinese parents often choose to give their children a western name as they believe it will make it easier for them to interact with English speakers. However, those names can often be chosen based off limited research, which can lead to interesting combinations such as “Rolex Wang”.
“It occurred to me that if Mrs Wang needed this service, then maybe other parents would as well,” Jessup told CNBC.
This led to Jessup borrowing some money from her father to set up a website to help other parents name their children, spending her spare time creating a database of more than 4,000 names, each associated with five characteristics she felt best described the name.
Parents then pick from a list of 12 characteristics they’d like their child to have, and are suggested three names based on those characteristics. The parents are also encouraged to ask their friends for advice and feedback on the name.
While the first 160,000 or so consultations were free, Jessup now charges $1 per name. She’s since named more than 680,000 babies, and CNBC estimates the site has made upwards of $US407,000 ($570,000) in revenue.
And with the site being largely self-sufficient with minimal overheads, Jessup is using the profits to pay her way through university and do a bit of property investing on the side.
“I still update the database each month, but the business is fully automated, allowing me to focus full time on my studies,” she told CNBC.
However, Special Name may soon no longer be under Jessup’s control, with the founder exploring a sale option to another company interested in purchasing the site.