After almost a decade of connecting incarcerated folks with friends and family on the outside, Flikshop Founder Marcus Bullock is boosting the company’s workforce development offerings with a new $250,000 investment from Boeing.
Since its founding in 2012, Flikshop, which is headquartered in the Navy Yard, has used a social media-like format to keep families connected and prevent recidivism. The company developed an app that allows people to send postcards, photos and letters to incarcerated loved ones. Credits to send the messages can be purchased by friends and family members, or through corporate sponsorships.
Bullock founded Flikshop after his own incarceration during his youth. He said his mom made it a mission to contact him daily while he was in prison, keeping him in high spirits and giving him something to look forward to each day. After he was released, he wanted to help others have that connection.
“We knew that if we did our jobs correctly, that we would be able to reduce recidivism simply by keeping the family connections close and allowing loved ones to share micro-moments the same way that we do on social media,” Bullock said.
The company has since expanded to other offerings for incarcerated people, founding the Flikshop School of Business and partnering with organizations like D.C. tech inclusion org Byte Back to provide digital literacy courses to inmates. Bullock said that following the success of Flikshop, the company wanted to make sure it was opening doors to digital careers in D.C.
“[We’re trying] to take these cohorts of people trying to come out of prison, introduce them to these digital literacy skills, and help them figure out how to get job placement, whether it be inside of their own careers as entrepreneurs or as contractors inside of the gig economy where it doesn’t matter if you have a felony conviction,” Bullock said.
The Flikshop School of Business, which offers the digital literacy classes, offers a variety of courses, from the basics of how to use PowerPoint, to a work and gig economy course. With the funding from Boeing, Flikshop will be able to grow its entrepreneurship program, offer families additional credits to use Flikshop and give inmates more access to Byte Back’s programs. It already sent a few thousand free postcards on Mother’s Day, and intends to do the same later this month for Father’s Day.
Bullock said if the program goes well, he hopes it can encourage partnerships with other organizations wanting to take part in fair chance hiring practices. He added that he’s looking forward to the first cohort centered specifically around entrepreneurship and the gig economy through this partnership.
“There are other corporations and leaders and CEOs of major organizations that want to contribute this way, but we knew that we had to be able to build out the course that allowed for other people to see it,” Bullock said.
As for how the tech industry can support incarcerated people as a whole, Bullock offered these pieces of advice:
- Educate: Take the initiative to educate yourself and your team
- Change the conversation: The best way create an inclusive, accepting environment, according to Bullock, is through storytelling.
- Actually do the things: Do what you say you want to and donate or establish partnerships. People want to work at companies that are doing good.