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John Legend Is Helping Former Convicts Start Their Own Businesses

Getting a decent job is hard enough as it is, and the issue is only compounded if you have a criminal record.

By Ryan Velez

Getting a decent job is hard enough as it is, and the issue is only compounded if you have a criminal record. Sometimes, a helping hand is enough to make the difference, and Black Enterprise reports on how John Legend is helping reformed entrepreneurs with their businesses.

Legend’s nonprofit, FreeAmerica, came together with New Profit and Bank of America to scan the country for the most impactful returning citizen social entrepreneurs. The result? Unlocked Futures, a 16-month accelerator for social entrepreneurs impacted by the criminal justice system. Eight applications were ultimately selected out of hundreds.

“Though 1 in 4 Americans has a criminal record, too often are formerly incarcerated individuals locked out of job opportunities because of their past. I have seen that entrepreneurship is a viable way for formerly incarcerated individuals to build sustainable livelihoods and contribute to their communities and neighborhoods,” said Legend in a statement. “We hope Unlocked Futures will serve as a powerful tool to break through the barriers to opportunity that exist for so many who have criminal records.”

Marcus Bullock, founder and CEO of Flikshop, is one such success story. After being incarcerated for eight years, Bullock wanted a quick and easy way to connect with his loved ones while behind bars and he realized that he wasn’t the only one. After a lot of ups and downs, Flikshop was born. This allows you to send a postcard to an inmate via phone, tablet, or internet.

“This was an incredible experience. It was the first fellowship that I’ve been a part of. The level of support for Flikshop and I have been foreign,” Bullock told Black Enterprise. “The facilitator, Tulaine Montgomery, was a big ball of wisdom and gentle strength that demanded our attention. Her focus on allowing our natural strengths and leadership styles to strengthen each other during the first trainings were invaluable.”

Legend recognizes that there is a lot to do to help these entrepreneurs develop their business, but he considers this a great opportunity that he is very happy about. “It’s clear that we’ve got a long way to go but, with people like you working tirelessly to change the system, I’m optimistic.”

Thank you for bringing attention to this wonderful grant opportunity that assist people with justice involvement succeed and expand their businesses. But please don’t call us convicts! We’re citizens just like everyone else. Again, thank you for this very positive and important story.