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19-Year-Old Pays Her College Tuition By Naming Over 677,000 Chinese Babies

Photo: Beau Jessup
british teen makes money from naming chinese babies

19-year-old Beau Jessup, a British teenager studying social anthropology at the London School of Economics, is putting herself through college with the money she is making from her baby-naming business.

Jessup is making thousands of dollars from her website, Special name.

It is a website that generates English baby names for Chinese parents so that they can have email accounts and assimilate into Western culture if they wish to.

“You can’t have an email address with Chinese characters. You need letters essentially,” says Jessup.   

She started this business in 2015 when she was only 15-years-old. Jessup has made over $400,000 by naming 677,900 until now, and she continues to make more.

While it may seem unusual to many as to how such a business could earn thousands, this kind of service is quite popular and needed in the Chinese community.

Beau Jessup gives Chinese children Western names for a small price. 

Chinese people often have two names, one is their Chinese name, and another is a western name they use while interacting with native English-speaking people.

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Chinese people often give themselves an English name.

Just like how their Chinese name holds a deep meaning, they want their English name to do the same, however, they don’t always end up with fruitful results because of the internet censorship in China  making it difficult to research English names.

It started with her dad’s colleagues.

Jessup was in China with her dad. Mrs. Wang, one of her dad’s colleagues, wanted to give her 3-year-old daughter an English name and asked for Jessup’s input. 

“I was honored and surprised. It seemed like a really important thing to do.” Jessup was surprised by the request and found out how important it was for a Chinese baby to have an English name from Mrs. Wang.

After learning a little about Mrs. Wang and her daughter, Jessup came up with “Eliza”.  Jessup said of the experience, “She was so happy with it and took the name suggestion straight away”.

Jessup realized how important this service was to Mrs. Wang and people like her and, thus, Special Name was born.

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Jessup then launched Special Name.

Jessup did some research before starting the website and borrowed approximately $1980 from her father. She hired a web developer to design the website and spent three weeks feeding the website 4000 names.

She initially offered the service for free but eventually started charging 79 cents. As the website is targeted towards the Chinese community, it is in Chinese. The process of selecting a name is easy and takes less than 5 minutes.

It involves three steps where people first choose the gender of the baby, then pick five characteristics they want their baby to have out of the twelve choices on the website, and it generates three names for the parents to choose. 

“They click the gender (there’s an icon for “boy” and “girl”), it then takes you to a page where there’s 12 symbols of characteristics (such as elegant, honest, optimistic) — they pick five of those that they want their child to have, and from that it matches with my five to then generate three name options.”   

Jessup is making a lot of money from 'Special Name.'

Jessup paid her college tuition and paid back her dad with the money she earned.

“My parents are really proud, but probably because they don’t have to pay for my uni fees,” Jessup remarked in humor. She was even invited to give a TEDx talk a couple of months after she started her website.

“The fact that China is becoming a global economy bridging the west and east, it’s a service that’s becoming increasingly necessary,” Jessup said and mentioned how she isn’t surprised that her business grew so much.

She continues to update the database of her website and hopes this experience will immensely benefit her in any other plans in the future. 

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Sanika Nalgirkar, M.F.A. is a writer and an Editorial Intern at YourTango who writes on entertainment & news, lifestyle, and pop culture topics.