In 2015, at age 15, Beau Jessup started a business naming Chinese babies.
Now she is making hundreds of thousands of dollars and funding her own way through college.
How did this business come about?
While on a business trip with her father, an associate, Mrs Wang, asked Jessup for help in naming her three-year-old daughter.
Jessup felt honoured by this surprising responsibility and asked Mrs Wang to share a little more about her hopes for her daughter, so that she could pick the most 'appropriate' name for the child.
Mrs Wang explained that even though a Chinese name is important, an English name is also important, because it makes everyone feel more comfortable when they interact with native English-speakers.
Jessup thought that if Mrs Wang needed this service, maybe other parents would need it too.
Policy changes and a profitable way to help
Fortuitously, China ended their 'one-child policy' which limited many families to having only one child, in 2015, and as a result childbirth in China rose by 7.9 %, according to the National Health and Family Planning Commission.
Jessup thought it might be profitable to offer English names for a small fee, and so the website 'Special Name' was born.
Special Name as a business and its day-to-day running
Jessup launched a Chinese language website that replicates her selection process for many names simultaneously. She borrowed the local equivalent of R30 000 from her father and hired a freelance web developer to build the website.
In her spare time, she created a database of names, each with five characteristics she felt best represented that name, such as honest, or optimistic.
This labour-intensive process was soon taken over by algorithms.
How long does this take and how many names does one get?
Picking a name is simple: A parent selects five attributes from a list of 12 given, and the site offers up three appropriate names within three minutes.
To avoid cultural mistakes and to help settle on their favourite, parents are encouraged to share these names with their family through a WeChat messaging application that is directly linked to Special Name's website.
At first, her service was free but after naming over 160, 000 babies Jessup decided to charge a fee of $0.79, or about R12.
Within six months of launching the site, she had made more than R916 000, naming over 200 000 babies.
Since then she named over 667 900 babies, earning herself an estimated revenue of over $400 000, or well over R6 million.
Jessup is in talks with a Chinese company that is considering purchasing the site, and she plans to use this experience in her future business endeavours.
You can watch her TedTalk here:
Compiled for Parent24 by Athenkosi Mndende
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