Marcus Bullock discovered a wealth of entrepreneurial insights during his time behind bars. His prison experiences inspired him to create Flikshop—an innovative app that helps incarcerated people remain close to their loved ones.
Flikshop takes any image sent from a cellphone and turns it into a postcard that the inmate will receive through regular mail.
“We are called the Instagram of prison,” Bullock recently told San Quentin News. “We keep families connected.”
“We want to ensure a person in every cell receives mail every day,” he said. “When I was in prison, I understood that getting mail was like winning the lottery.”
With the help of prison reform advocate John Legend and his partnership with Unlocked Futures, Flikshop now reaches inmates throughout all 50 states, with 40 percent of its revenue coming from California.
“John Legend is an avid Flikshop user and investor,” Bullock explained. “Sitting down with him, you have the opportunity to hear his experience with the criminal justice system.
“He (Legend) is very adamant about people coming out of these cells having the same opportunities as those who come out of college.”
“It’s been proven that inmates that are in constant contact with their families and friends are far more likely to successfully re-enter their communities upon release,” Flikshop states on its website. “These inmates feel the support during their incarceration, which also promotes a greater sense of accountability to loved ones.”
Flikshop exceeded its initial goal of providing quick and easy social interaction between family members and inmates. According to Forbes magazine, the app’s convenient efficiency gives nonprofit organizations—ones geared toward transitional reentry and rehabilitation services—a direct route to offer inmates information and assistance.
The Campaign for Youth Justice (CYJ), an organization Bullock got involved with upon his release from prison, became one of Flikshop’s first subscribers when it launched in 2012. CYJ continues to use the service to reach out to incarcerated youth offenders across the nation.
“Flikshop provides incarcerated individuals an important communication pathway with loved ones at home,” said Rob Brown, chairperson of the JUST Capital Research Advisory Council. “This critical connection is a straightforward reminder that a full life awaits outside prison, and a motivation to seek self-improvement inside prison.
“Once released, the individual is more likely to be in a frame of mind to stay on a responsible course from the moment of release from prison.”
Bullock encourages the hiring of returning citizens to help diminish recidivism. Flikshop employs a current staff of 18 people, most of whom are formerly incarcerated individuals.
“As I think about others in those cells, if each one of them got a Flikshop every day—what would they do with that?” Bullock said. “It would add a tremendous amount of value to their time there and preparing them for release.”
Bullock is quite impassioned about not being fearful of failure.
He explained that he started his first company while in prison. “It prepared me to think like an entrepreneur; it forced me to read books about it. When it was time, I knew how to run a business.
“Dream big,” he advised, “and take the dreams that you have in those cells. Start now. Start today.
“One of the mantras I have learned is to fail fast, as quickly as you can. Each one of your failures will help you with success.
“I’ll run to the failure, to the cliff and jump over it” he proclaimed. “If you are brave enough to do that then you are an entrepreneur, and you will build your parachute on the way down.”