Teen makes her fortune naming babies
WHEN Beau Jessup came up with an idea to help Chinese families name their babies, even she thought it was a bit far-fetched.
The then 16-year-old was still in high school when a trip to China with her father sparked her now multimillion-dollar business venture, Special Name, which helps Chinese families choose a culturally appropriate name for their child.
Within the first six months of launching back in 2015, Beau made more than $A84,000 helping name more than 200,000 Chinese babies.
"Dad was going on a business trip and I decided to go with him because I was on holidays," Beau told news.com.au.
"He was with a business colleague who had a three-year-old daughter and she had asked me to suggest an English name for her little girl.
"I was surprised by this because having the responsibility to name a child is quite important. I wanted to take it seriously."
The now 19-year-old asked the woman to list a series of characteristics she wanted her daughter to have - and from that Beau suggested the name Eliza, based on the fictional character Eliza Doolittle who is a quick-witted and strong character unafraid to stand up for herself.
"She was so happy with it and took the name suggestion straight away," Beau said.
After returning from her holiday, Beau - who can read, write and speak Chinese after studying it at school for seven years - did some research and realised there wasn't a baby-naming business specifically targeted to the Chinese community.
Her next step was to convince her father Paul, also an entrepreneur with an online teddy bear boutique business, to lend her £1500 (just under $A3000).
After he gave his tick of approval, Beau used the money to hire a website creator and spent the rest on advertising on WiiChat, the largest community platform in China.
As she was still at school, the former Cheltenham Ladies College student had to wait for holidays before conducting more research.
She spent the next three weeks sorting through hundreds of baby name books to ensure she picked names that were not only culturally appropriate but had historical meaning and connotations. She came up with a database of 4000 names.
"Each name has been attributed to five characteristics. The system then matches their five characteristic to my five and three names are generated, which is what they pay for."
Beau said the way it worked was very simple and involved just three steps.
"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."
The 19-year-old, who has now named more than 677,000 babies, said the common traits people wanted their kids to have were empathy, honesty, kindness and beauty for a girl and sporty, strong and smart for a boy.
Generally, popular girls' names are Katherine, Mary, Elizabath and Charlotte (i.e. the royal family), and for boys it's William, Matthew and Jake.
Beau said that while all Chinese babies are given a traditional Chinese name at birth, which is written in Chinese characters, there is now a massive demand for Chinese to also adopt an additional English name.
She explained that while she never expected the business to grow so quickly, she's also not surprised by the interest.
"The fact that China is becoming a global economy bridging the west and east, it's a service that's becoming increasingly necessary," she said.
The entrepreneurial teen said she was also inspired after hearing some of the "embarrassing" English names Chinese parents had chosen - including Gandalf and Cinderella.
"When I was at school, a lot of the Chinese girls had English names, but some were very odd like "Popcorn", and it's a shame because people would take the mickey out of them, which isn't nice, and I didn't want to perpetuate that."
The 19-year-old has a strong interest in human nature, culture and people in the way they communicate with one another - and said her business is a way of celebrating her passion.
"I don't always have an entrepreneurial brain. I do come up with ideas, but predominantly, my interest is in human nature, and I think that's why the business has developed that way it has," Beau said.
Within the first six months of launching Special Name, the teen turned over more than $A84,000 - and it's now a multimillion-dollar business.
The first 162,000 babies she named for free to promote the site before charging 60 pence ($A1) for the five-minute service.
Beau wasn't comfortable releasing the exact value of her business but told news.com.au the profits go towards funding her university degree - social anthropology at the London School of Economics.
"My parents are really proud but probably because they don't have to pay for my uni fees," she laughed.
She also paid her dad back (with interest) after he helped kickstart her now very successful business.
The first-year uni student was invited to give a TEDx talk just months after launching when she gained global headlines after her local paper featured her story.
At the time, she never told her school because she didn't think they would be interested, but then she got bombarded with messages from teenagers asking for advice, adults asking her to employ them and a Russian man asking for the rights of the franchise.
"It was slightly strange and overwhelming," she said.
"Everyone thought it was crazy, and some of my friends were like, 'What, is this what you are doing, do you have a business?'"
Beau is still surprised there isn't another online business similar to hers - but given its strong global reputation, it's going to be a tough one to beat.
"I want to improve the site by adding a feature where people can pick the first letter and then also the characters so it's even more tailor-made - where it's not only the characteristics that help shape the name but also within a letter category."
The mature teen is looking at also investing her pocket money into property.
"I think it's the most sensible thing to do - probably a bit too sensible," Beau said.