This British Teenager Has Helped Name More Than 200,000 Babies, and Made a Ton of Money Doing It

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As a mother, I am fascinated by both baby names and the wild and creative side jobs teenagers come up with these days. Now one 16-year-old British girl is making a ton of money by helping strangers name their babies.

According to the BBC, 16-year-old Beau Jessop from England has a thriving side business helping families in China pick English names for their babies. At this point, she’s earned $64,000 and supplied 200,000 names, and her business is still going strong.

Parents everywhere are interested in the future financial and academic success of their offspring. In the U.S., many parents might push their babies to learn Mandarin and boast in holiday cards that little Breightleigh can count to 100 in Mandarin. It’s the same sort of deal in China, but with English.

As part of the English-studying process, kids get English names, and they usually wind up keeping those names forever. That’s pretty common the other way around, too. My husband is an assistant professor of Chinese history, and he’s still professionally and socially using the Chinese name given to him by his Mandarin 1 teacher when he was 17. Sometimes their own English names, but often the parents do it, especially when this process starts very young.

Beau was visiting China with her parents when a friend of her father’s asked her for suggestions for good English names for his new baby. She was a little surprised and uncomfortable with the degree of responsibility in front of her,

“I’m not really qualified or relevant enough in that baby’s life to be the person to give it a name,” she told the BBC. But her father’s friend explained that lots of babies wind up accidentally saddled with “weird” or embarrassing or inappropriate names.

“Being exposed to luxury items and things like Harry Potter, Disney films and Lord of the Rings means they use those for reference,” Beau said. “I once heard of someone called Gandalf and another called Cinderella.”

Awkward names are not unheard of. I worked at a newspaper in Beijing for two  years, and I did know a Cinderella. The most common name for women of my approximate age range seemed to be Nancy, though. (For smaller children, Harry was extremely popular.) Most names were decidedly normal-sounding English language names, but with the specter of “Gandalf” hanging over one’s head, it’s no wonder that a parent would want to check in with a native English speaker to make sure a baby name sounded “normal.”

So Beau got the idea to make a quick and simple website that would provide suggestions for English names for Chinese parents to choose. It’s called Special Name, and parents just select the baby’s gender and then select five personality traits they want to be associated with their child. Possible personality traits include elegance, activity, sensitivity, perseverance, confidence, honesty, cleverness, creativity, optimism, reliability, insightful, and empathy.

A parent selects five of the traits and pays about 60p, and the website suggests a name.

I decided to try it myself and asked it for a name for a girl who was intelligent, creative, optimistic, confident, and elegant. It spun for a moment and told me that my specialist was selecting names. Then it asked me to pay 68 yuan, or around $10, to get three individualized name suggestions, but it gave me a special discount code to get it for $1. Unfortunately, then everything crashed. If I get it working again, I will pay my $1 and get my name suggestions and let you know what Special Name says I should name my fake baby.

60p is not a lot of money, but over 200,000 people have generated names with Beau’s site, and she’s made over $64,000 and counting.

Beau doesn’t even know which names are the most popular on her site, because the site comes up with the names individually and suggests them to parents based on the desired associations.

Beau says she made the website as a small side project, just to see what would happen.