Marilyn's Journey Continues

by Marilyn Brown

Starting out at Strive, our professional development program, I really had no sense of direction in my life. I had hit rock bottom after committing another felony offense and was facing potential prison time, once again. I had been to prison three times already, so at this point, I really didn’t have hope for the near future. I knew I would have to do something extraordinary to come from under this, but what could that be?

I was blessed with probation and was ready to do what was needed to successfully complete. I had community service stipulations and I was determined to get it done. I was having a conversation with my P.O. when she asked if I had an idea of where I would do my community service. I told her that I hadn’t, but was still looking. She recommended I look into the Strive Program.  

I applied and got in! Everything was going great until we had to complete assignments that challenged me to really think about my future. Although, it was a great idea to get me thinking about how I could start molding a better looking future for myself, I wasn’t motivated to do it at that point in my life. I thought very strongly about quitting. Gave myself some time to think and there was one thought that stood out particularly. “Why would you quit a program called ‘Strive’ if you’re really looking to change your life around?”  

black woman in graduation gown

Off that thought alone, I decided to stick it out. I graduated Strive and was eligible to become an apprentice with Labyrinth Made Goods. When I looked at the job description, I gracefully let the team know that I wasn’t the person they were looking for. Thankfully, they didn’t take my word for it. They assured me it was nothing like I thought and that I would be the perfect person for the job. Well, surely if they believed in me, I couldn’t let them down. I did the interview and was offered the business apprenticeship. 


During my apprenticeship, I had faced many challenges. I was learning new things every day and was tasked with doing things I had never done and didn’t think I would ever be able to do. I was nervous about doing things wrong and messing up what the team had so carefully built. I had major self-doubt and my confidence was at an all-time low. However, I can honestly say with the support and training I received from my team, I was beginning to feel like the sky was the limit. They were always SO encouraging and motivating. Ready and willing to help me however I needed. Never shunned questions or made me feel inadequate. Gave me grace for trial and error. In doing all of that, it strengthened me mentally and emotionally. I was ready to take on whatever this position required. 


black woman working on laptop

I successfully completed my apprenticeship and I am now the first business specialist of Labyrinth Made Goods! I was so grateful and honored there was a position available for me to stay on with the team, because I honestly fell in love with the work I was doing, the cause we are supporting, but most of all, it’s been the encouragement, support, and motivation I received from the team.  

 women at product display

I enjoy coming to work every day, I enjoy contributing to this cause, and I enjoy helping to create opportunities for other women like me. I can authentically be myself and not feel the need to hide what I’ve been through. I am living a dream! Labyrinth Made Goods has given me a real chance to thrive and succeed. It has afforded me opportunities and experiences of a lifetime. It has opened doors for me that I know I wouldn’t be able to walk through with the barriers I face as a woman who has experienced incarceration. It has helped build me up as an individual, personally and professionally. & it’s only UP from here!