There is a ton of opportunity that can come out of our prison cells; but only if we help create a culture of second chances.
Marcus Bullock is an entrepreneur, justice reform advocate, and public speaker. Following his 2004 release from prison, he launched a painting business and is now CEO of construction firm Perspectives Premier Contractors, which employs other returning citizens.
Bullock is also founder and CEO of mobile app Flikshop, a free app that enables incarcerated people the ability to receive postcards in the mail from friends and support organizations. Flikshop ships postcards to over 2,200 correctional facilities around the country, connecting thousands of families to their incarcerated loved ones. Flikshop has become a leader in their industry, and led Bullock to co-found Washington, DC non-profit Flikshop School of Business, a program that teaches persons returning to their community from prison life skills, entrepreneurship, and mobile application development.
He is a member of the Justice Policy Institute’s board of directors, has been appointed by Washington, DC’s mayor as a Commissioner for Reentry and Returning Citizens Affairs, and Aspen Institute Scholar. Notable awards that Bullock has won are the 2015 Innovator of the Year (The Daily Record) and 2016 Booz Allen Hamilton Aspen Ideas award (The Aspen Institute).
Married with two children, Bullock has given a TEDx Talk and received coverage from CNN, TechCrunch, Black Enterprise, NPR, and the Washington Business Journal.
Connect with Marcus:
- The prison to entrepreneurship pipeline | Marcus Bullock | TEDxFoggyBottom
- Outliers: The Story of Success
- Venture Deals
- Do More Faster: TechStars Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup
A few of the questions I asked Marcus:
- Share with our community the story of what happened to cause a permanent shift in the mind of an innocent 13 year old Marcus?
- Was your emotional strength or your physical strength more important, to help weather that season and the environment inside a maximum security prison?
- Was there ever anything that signaled to you that you had an entrepreneurial talent or gene in you?
- How was it acclimating to technology when you came out?
- What does that really mean … to be a convicted felon after you’ve served your sentence? What’s the real impact of that?
- What would your advice be for young black men and boys faced with a similar set of challenges in their teenage years?
- Did you ever question yourself about why you’d be the person that was going to bring this idea to life and be the CEO of this brand and this project?
- What was the first step? How did you get thousands of prisoners and their families to become aware of the platform and get onboard with this vision of yours?
- What’s the end goal?
- What advice do you have for people in prison as they prepare to re-enter the world?
- What’s the end goal?
Key Points from Marcus:
- My story did not begin with my incarceration. It began with the Prince George’s County Oratorical Contest — the first time where I had an opportunity to express an opinion and use the skills of an orator to control the conversation in front of me. That was my “I can do …” moment.
- The speaking classes from my youth honed my skill for public speaking and created the desire to control my destiny — a destiny that would lead me on a series of experiences to where I am today.
- I was not the only one in that jail cell the night of my incarceration. The survivor of the crime, my mom, my sister, my newborn niece – these people all did time with me. I and everyone connected to me was hurt.
- I spent 8 critical years in incarceration – my 16th to 23rd birthdays were all spent inside of maximum security facilities.
- In prison I was confined to a small space sharing everything with another human being — from secrets to stenches.
- I was young, angry and confused. Being locked up in a 6 x 9 cell and being only able to hear the joy of family celebrations from a collect phone call occasionally was the recipe for depression and acts of violence and acting out.
- I saw a profit margin looking at my friends who were selling crack cocaine. This was the moment that changed my life. This introduced me to a blurred line, as a means to an end, to be able to provide for my family. As a kid, I didn’t realize I was going to end up in a prison cell.
- There is no connectivity when you get locked up, and it was challenging acclimating to technology when I left prison.
- Being newly released from prison and having to deal with technology in all aspects of life outside of the confines of my home was less than empowering
- It was a whole new world coming out of prison. Imagine having to fill out a job application on a screen that you don’t know how to control.
- Out of prison — not only am I a felon, not only am I never gonna succeed, but now I have no skill that would allow me to come home and perform at the same level as my counterparts. It was a very scary time.
- I have been home for 14 years and I still can’t put my name on the lease for an apartment. This is the impact of being a convicted felon for life.
- I’m the CEO of Flikshop but regardless of the accolades post-prison, I still walk around with an “F” on my chest, and I still have to fight that daily battle. This is the reason why I use this experience as part of my advocacy work today.
- It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. keep running!
- Fail fast! Fail as often and as fast as you can. Don’t be afraid of the weight of the failures; that’s how you learn.
- Most of us probably don’t do the things we are passionate about and want to do because we can’t see the end goal or we equate our success with a false barometer, i.e. money or relationships.
- Learn how to face your fears and fail fast. Failure is a part of the journey.
- Most people counted me out when I came out of prison anyways. So, I was able to jump out of the window without a parachute and build the parachute on the way down.
- Success is mostly expected from outliers, but if you have an idea, just try it.
- If you try and fail you will learn something from the failure. So, what are you going to try next?
- I succeeded because I wasn’t smart enough to understand that failure was imminent.
- There was no way that I was going to leave my best friends from those prison cells to serve their sentences by themselves.
- Try as hard as you can to make your hypothesis work, EVERYDAY!
- Flikshop’s goal is to have every person, in every jail, receive mail everyday.
- Bringing the Community at Flikshop School of Business is focussed on connecting those who are incarcerated with their families using the technology, post cards and the mobile application.
One Action To Blaze Your Trail:
Figure out a way to become a part of a community of people that are going to be ready to receive the 95% of people that are going to come home from these prisons one day.
FlikshopAngels.com allows users to become a part of the community that helps contribute you to the population that is coming back home to neighborhoods purchase gift cards to be donated to families in need or purchase flikshops to be anonymously sent to someone in prison to support them through their incarceration.
Thanks for Listening!
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