"The journey to Flikshop was incredible," said Marcus Bullock, the app's CEO and founder. "It really was an accidental launch."
"It was more of a solution that I wanted to build for my own friends and family members," he continued. "I wanted to be able to write my friends that were still in prison that I had just left."
"I had developed these relationships with them that were - a kindred spirit that we had, while we were still there, inside the facilities."
Bullock was incarcerated at 15 following a felony sentencing and released eight years later. He knows firsthand how important communication is while in prison.
Flikshop was created by Bullock so people can easily connect with their incarcerated friends and family, keep them up-to-date on their lives and linked to their outside communities.
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. These inmates feel the support during their incarceration, which also promotes a greater sense of accountability to loved ones.
"When I was in prison, I knew that the one thing that kept me, kept my head on straight with the desire to succeed after prison, [and that] was because of the relationship that I had with my mother, because of her letters," Bullock said.
"It was her letters, it was her pictures, it was her visits, it was those expensive phone calls that she accepted that built the sense of accountability that I had to my mom. I would never put her through that again."
It can be difficult staying in touch with loved ones behind bars. Bullock created Flikshop as an easy way to send a quick update that does not require pen, paper, stamps, pictures, printing, and more importantly, time.
"There isn't any Facebook, or Twitter, or texting, or emailing - all of those technologies that you and I are accustomed to," Bullock said.
"We took the process out of that for you by allowing you to take the picture, add some quick text, press send, and for $0.99 we take that picture and text printed on a real tangible postcard, and mail it for you to any person, in any facility, anywhere in the country."
Bullock and Flikshop were also selected as part of singer John Legend's initiative, Unlocked Futures.
Legend and his organization Free America, Bank of America, and New Profit, Inc., selected eight entrepreneurs who have been impacted by the criminal justice system to participate in Unlocked Futures' accelerator program.
Bullock and Flikshop were selected for this program alongside Will Avila and his business Clean Decisions, who are also based in Washington, D.C.
"I'm sitting in the office, and I get a random phone call from John and his team saying, 'Hey Marcus, we heard of your app and we're using it, we love it. How can we support [it]?'" Bullock recounted. "Now, mind you, I'm sitting in the office just like I am today, and I couldn't believe that I'm on the phone with John and his team and they're talking about Flikshop, this tool that we built just for people like you and I."
"Unlocked Futures has been an incredible opportunity for us and they became our angels," he continued. "There were very few people that believed in entrepreneurs that had been in prison."
"In most circles, it really is still taboo to acknowledge that I have a felony and that I am building a sustainable business. Whether it be from a venture capitalist firm, or the smallest angel investor, even into some of the pitch competitions that immediately read the word felon on my bio and say 'uh, or no.' Unlocked Futures didn't do that. They saw leaders inside each one of our organizations and said, 'How can we empower you? How can we help your business succeed?'"
Bullock said that Unlocked Futures supporting people involved with the justice system has been a huge help with continuing his business and providing other citizens returning from incarceration with support.
Flikshop additionally helped Bullock and his partners start the Flikshop School of Business, where they have created a "yellow brick road" of sorts for people leaving prison to follow.
The Flikshop School of Business has only had two participants return to prison out of 141 overall.
Bullock said their business school classes are not just open to returning citizens, but anyone looking for a path to entrepreneurship.
"The Flikshop School of Business wants to help transform that in our pathways to success through education," he said. "The technology is good, FSB is going to be the cherry on top."
This year, 2018; every person, every cell, they're going to receive a Flikshop - we're adamant about it.
You can download Flikshop on your phone or tablet, or visit their online site. They have over a quarter of a million users, and are getting re-entry and support programs involved in sending messages to inmates.