Former prisoner Marcus Bullock knows the lasting impact of a simple piece of mail from the outside. So, after his release, he set out to create an easier way for prisoners to receive messages from loved ones. He became the founder and CEO of Flikshop, a company that sends high-quality, security-friendly postcards to men and women in prison. He recently spoke with Inside Journal® about family connection, second chances, and the power of a postcard.
Prison Fellowship: Where did you get the idea for Flikshop?
Marcus Bullock: I was arrested about a week after my 15th birthday and spent eight years behind bars. While I was sitting in those cells, during mail call, my mom sent me tons of mail. She showed me so much love during a time when she could have opted not to … It was love and adoration and consistency.
When I came home, it was hard for me to find a job, but I finally found one at a paint store. After that, my life started to soar a little. I started getting to travel, have new experiences, and make new friends. And I felt bad thinking about all those men I had left behind, knowing their aggravation of not even receiving one piece of mail while in there. Flikshop came out of that. I don't care what [kind of mail] it is; I'd want anything coming through that slot with my name on it, telling me that someone out there knows that I exist.
How does Flikshop work?
It's simple. Using their mobile device or computer, prisoners' loved ones are able to take a quick picture, type a message to go with it, and press send. And for 99 cents, Flikshop prints it on a postcard. Just like someone can post to [social media] about your little cousin's kindergarten graduation … that same message goes on a postcard shipped to just about any detention center, jail, or correctional facility. So, it's a way that I hope people can stay connected just like my mom stayed connected to me during that time I was in prison.
Does Flikshop ship everywhere?
Right now, we ship to about 2,200 prisons in all 50 states.
What is the long-term impact of this connection?
Every single postcard … that one message saying, "Daddy I love you, I miss you," is a moment that can be cherished in a prison cell, and experienced over and over again in that person's memory. It means so much to that proud father who otherwise wouldn't have much of a relationship with his daughter while he's behind bars. Even if you get a postcard and it's a picture of someone's lunch, you know someone loved you enough to send you that photo. Like, "Hey, my brother/sister sent me this, and just look at this salad. I can't wait to have something like that when I get home." It creates a sense of hope and anticipation for release day, and how they want to succeed when they get out.
How did you learn to believe in your own potential?
It helped to know that somebody on the outside believed in me. Being in an adult facility at such a young age, I had more failures on my résumé than diplomas. … But I know I can make good choices. And that allows me to get up every single morning and say, "Marcus, try to run as fast as you can, even to the point of failure, because you'll learn from [failures] and be able to succeed later."
The thing is, no matter who you are, someone on the outside believes in you. There are people you don't even know who believe in you. Knowing that would have changed the way I came home to live, even more than my family's support already did.
How have you seen Flikshop help families on the outside?
Flikshop's social media pages are the places to go for prisoners' families. It's a safe haven. For so many families, it's still taboo to talk about their brother, sister, husband, father, wife, mother, or whoever is in prison. So, these family members on the outside can go to our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram pages and write about what they're going through. Someone else on the other side of the world might see that message or comment, and say, "Hey, I'm having the same problem. It would be great to connect with you and see how we can deal with it together." Flikshop is building a sense of community.