Earlier this month, gentlemen from the Free Minds Book Club in Washington, DC visited us at our Flikshop offices for a Flikshop School of Business workshop. Free Minds Book Club has been one of Flikshop’s longest-running partners and local collaborator in the social justice space since our inception in 2012. Free Minds has served over 1500 incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals, connecting them to personal and workforce development and member-led advocacy through literary arts since 1996.
VP of Operations, Jessica Snow greeted scholars one by one as they arrived. As scholars gathered in the office lobby, there was a spirit of curiosity in what the morning would entail. Hugs were exchanged with friends, handshakes offered with introductions, and after everyone loaded up on their personal caffeine selection, the class moved to the conference room to get started.
Gentlemen in the conference room that day ranged in a broad spectrum of experiences. Some had served longer prison sentences, while others were coming out of more recent stints in DC Central Training Facility. Some had just arrived home from prison mere days before our workshop, while others had some time to acclimate in their reentry. No matter their background or current chapter, each sat around our U-shaped tables ready to absorb and learn from others who had been in their shoes before.
When those with lived experience are taught by others with lived experience, there is almost an educational exhale that an immediate general understanding is established. For many, it is difficult to understand the challenges and barriers faced in reentry, unless you have been there yourself. Formerly incarcerated founder and Flikshop CEO, Marcus Bullock, and FSB Head Instructor, Tony Belton, took the helm as they discussed with scholars how to build a personal and professional brand and how to sustain personal brand management in navigating new chapters.
As Marcus and Tony discussed how brand identifies and distinguishes you as an individual, scholars were asked to think introspectively in how they represented themselves and how they wanted to represent themselves as their present and future. Scholars were led through brand statements, career stories, and professional goal setting and discussed how to utilize these tools in personal development and professional networking. Scholars were encouraged to consider designing their personal career…on their own terms.
“This is how you help to create pathways into tech for people coming out of incarceration.” says Bullock. “When I went to prison there was no Internet; when I came home there was Google. My mind was blown and I felt a bit overwhelmed.”
Discussion sparked as scholars sifted through how to differentiate themselves from other go-getters in today’s active job market. They asked real and applicable questions and were inspired after learning real-life stories and pathways to success from others who have navigated a successful reentry and career. There was laughter in some humorous moments and somber head nods during moments of empathy and understanding.
Flikshop’s School of Business has been offering meaningful courses like this one for over five
years. Through FSB’s intensive boot-camp style cohorts, formerly incarcerated entrepreneurs have had access to gig-economy training and have gone on to start successful and thriving businesses in the local district. Through FSB’s most recent partnership with Grow with Google, Flikshop can now offer specialized workshops to a broader audience of those impacted by the legal system through our non-profit organization partners in the DMV area. These courses offer additional resources, and tightens the network in the reentry and social justice reform community, weaving an even tighter web of support that is deeply needed by all who have returned home post-release.
After this class, scholars from Free Minds Book Club understood the value of creating their own personal brand, and how to show to others that they were unique in their skills, gifts, and experiences and worthy of professional investment. This group was engaging, creative, and interactive. It is our hope at Flikshop, that they left inspired and motivated to continue to build on that brand and personal experience that only they can offer this world.
“These women and men that are coming out of prison are sometimes really brilliant. All they need is a bit of social capital and access.” Bullock exclaims.
Sometimes we ask ourselves, ‘What is the best reentry program for people after prison?’
Today, in Washington, DC, that answer is Flikshop School of Business.
(Testimonial Courtesy of Flikshop, Inc.)
(Testimonial Courtesy of Flikshop, Inc.)