Deshi Singh is on a mission to revolutionize the way consumers shop and earn. As founder and CEO of Apricot, she is disrupting the customer acquisition model that enables authentic referrals.
“I believe in the power of personal recommendations to move the needle for brands and improve the shopping experience for consumers,” she explains. “I also believe that everyone should be compensated for their influence — even if they’re not an ‘influencer.’”
A seasoned entrepreneur and accomplished businesswoman, prior to APRICOT Deshi spent nearly a decade in the Financial Services sector, starting in Investment Banking at Morgan Stanley and Investor Relations at hedge funds including Och Ziff and Hudson Bay Capital Management. She co-founded Gem X, a jewelry social club based in New York City born out of a desire to transform jewelry into a social experience for a new generation of enthusiasts, and also launched Indie Fresh, a healthy Manhattan-based chef-prepared food company.
Through philanthropy and impact investing, Deshi supports various initiatives in education, sustainability, and advocacy for women and children. She is currently the President of the Singh Foundation, an Advisor for the Asia Foundation’s Lotus Circle, and sits on the board of Chefs for Impact.
We caught up with the changemaker to discuss the need for the fashion space to change, how she juggles business and motherhood (she’s the mama of three boys!), and how her relationship has never been better.
What drove you to quit your investment banking job and become an entrepreneur?
I actually got my start in investment banking straight out of college before moving into the hedge fund space. But there were so many factors that played into my decision to leave finance. For one, I realized that as much as I respected my boss, I didn’t want to be her. It’s still so hard to be a woman in finance, and I saw others taking credit for her work constantly. I also didn’t feel totally fulfilled by what I was doing. I wanted more.
I’ve always cared about social issues and serving my community. I had just helped start the Asia Foundation Young Lotus Circle, which gets young professionals involved in supporting women’s economic empowerment all across Asia, the Pacific, and parts of the Middle East. I was eager to find more ways to make an impact on the world around me.
With Apricot, I’m thrilled to have landed on a business model that allows me to help shift how we buy and consume, while also giving back.
How did you turn your vision for Apricot into a fully realized business? What hurdles did you have to overcome?
Oh boy, where to start! There were so many hurdles.
The idea for Apricot struck me early in the pandemic when I saw that the financial implications of this crisis would disproportionately fall on women and mothers. It was so clear to me that women are an afterthought in our current economic model.
My goal was simple: to get women compensated for something that has traditionally been unpaid labor. I’m constantly asking friends to recommend their favorite products —a clean moisturizer, a tote bag with pockets. And they always deliver! When I was pregnant with my third child, I asked a friend for some baby recommendations and she sent me an entire Excel spreadsheet (I purchased almost every item, of course). My friend was influencing these companies’ bottom lines. It seemed natural to me that she should be compensated.
That spark of an idea was the beginning of a wild and twisty road. Apricot is a fashion tech company, and I don’t have experience in either. But I got accepted into a VC incubator, then met a string of people who helped me improve and finesse the idea and build my team. When something wasn’t right, I pivoted quickly to conserve time and money.
All the while, I navigated a global pandemic, the birth of my third child, a move to a new town, and very little childcare. I was personally devastated by the invasion of Ukraine because most of our amazing developers live there and I heard firsthand from them what they were experiencing.
Raising money has been another hurdle. It’s always hard, but especially if your business is about economically empowering women in a way that most guys just don’t fully comprehend. I am now going into my seed raise solely focusing on badass, accomplished women. If you are one, or know one, we’re looking to raise about $250k each from ten to twelve women.
Despite these hurdles, I have seen time and again that when you truly believe in something, the world conspires to show you the way. I have never believed more in what we’re doing at Apricot. I am so proud of how far we’ve come — and where we’re going.
What criteria do brands have to meet in order for you to consider them to be partners?
We’re passionate about highlighting products with purpose. Most of our brands are female or BIPOC-owned, and many produce right here in the US. They all care about sustainability and are doing everything they can to minimize their environmental impact. Often this means they’re literally helping create more ethical supply chains at home and abroad, at a time when that is truly urgent. Safe to say we go deep on our research and are so proud to feature brands that are making a difference in this world.
What void does Apricot fill in the current market?
As an impatient shopper with three kids, I wanted to be a more informed consumer but didn’t have time to do the research myself. I longed for a site where I could discover clean, conscious, thoughtful brands, with less scrolling. As I said previously, I also wanted to buy allll the things my friends recommended! So I combined those two ideas. At Apricot you can shop straight from your friends’ recommendations (aka: their Collections), and feel confident that all the products are pre-vetted to be good for you and good for the world.
How has your life changed — as both an individual and mother — since becoming your own boss?
I work… a lot. I believe that I was blessed with three young boys so that they (along with my husband) could learn to be allies. I take seriously my responsibility to teach them to support and uplift the women and girls in their lives. I am so proud that they see me working hard for something I believe in. They put Apricot stickers in their bedroom; they love to feel like a part of what I’m doing. I also feel like my relationship with my husband has never been better. We are partners. He helps equally at home to allow me the space and energy to focus on launching my business.
On an individual level, I feel so empowered by this process. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but overcoming the kinds of challenges you face in growing a business has given me more confidence in myself as a woman, a mother, and a human.
What brands and thought leaders are you currently loving in the parenting/baby space?
Great question. Chamber of Mothers is a non-profit that is working to realign America’s priorities on mothers’ rights. It was started by an incredible woman I met on my Apricot journey, Erin Erenberg. I am now getting involved at the Founding Team level (all of the women are powerhouses in the parenting and baby space) because I’m so inspired by and encouraged by their work. I’m humbled to have a voice at this table!
What's next for Apricot in the near future, and what is your ultimate goal for the brand?
I am trying to change shopping as we know it. That might sound ambitious — but it’s true! At Apricot we want to see a world where we buy less, but better. Where women are fairly compensated for the value they bring to the brands they love. Where brands manufacture in a way that is more ethical, and less detrimental to the environment.
In the short term, we’ll be onboarding a ton of exciting new brand partners. We’ll also be working with high-profile members in the fashion and culture space to spread our message, and we’re working hard to roll out an option for members to donate their Apricot balances to charity. Giving back will always be an important part of who we are.