Mental Health Spotlight: Local businesswoman encourages others to believe in themselves

You can do it. You are loved. Know your worth. You are a bad ass. It’s ok to not be ok. Nothing is impossible. 

Doesn’t it give you warm fuzzies just reading these words of encouragement? I’ve had a particularly bad bout of anxiety this week with negative thoughts constantly intruding my brain – but seeing these words helped me feel better. 

The words were printed on magnets and temporary tattoos, laid out at a Mental Health Awareness Month event I attended yesterday. Ange Zelenak, founder of the Inkcourage brand and overall bad ass, was giving away these items and encouraging attendees to carry out random acts of kindness, such as saying thank you to a person who has influenced their life.

Even though I just met her yesterday, I want to say thank you to Ange, who helped lift my spirits and bring a smile to the faces of everyone who attended Easterseals MORC’s Empowered Interactive Luncheon.

I volunteered at the event with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, where I work, and I was lucky enough to meet Ange and hear her story. In a world where we are constantly bombarded with negative news, self-doubt, and people stampeding over each other in a race to the top, this movement of kindness that Ange has started gave me a renewed faith in humanity. And I hope her story inspires you as much as it did me. 

‘It all started because of mental health’

Fresh out of college in 2016, Ange started the brand Inkcourage as a way to help her peers as they emerged into adulthood. Ya know, like applying for adult jobs, moving out on their own, deciding what they’re going to do with their lives, and all the uncertainty that comes during this stage of life. Ange said she went through her own mental health struggles in high school and college and wanted to help others not feel alone. 

“After college, it felt like we were all going through something, and we were worried about ‘What’s next.’ It was overwhelming, and I didn’t really talk about it because I didn’t think other people would understand. Then I realized everyone else was going through it too,” said Ange, who graduated from the College for Creative Studies with a degree in product design.  

Ange started out designing about 30 temporary tattoos, giving them to one of her friends who was going through a particularly hard time. The tattoos had positive phrases on them to remind her friend that someone cared about her. 

“It all started because of mental health. I know everyone is going through their own struggles – whether you want to talk about it or not – and it was really important to me to feel like I was there for other people. A lot of times in my life, I've felt isolated – and I know my friends have too – and I wanted to help others not feel that way. Sometimes we just need other people to remind us of our greatness or how awesome we are,” she said.  

Dream Big

For six years, Ange sold her products online and at pop-up stores at Eastern Market and fairs across the state. But, just six months ago, she opened her own shop in downtown Royal Oak. There, she sells, of course, the temporary tattoos, along with shirts, hats, jewelry, coffee mugs, candles, stickers, buttons and more. She also hosts different events where attendees can connect with like-minded individuals while taking part in fun activities, like making candles or eating macarons. 

Starting her own business at age 23 and opening her own store at 30, Ange hopes she can help inspire others to follow their dreams. 

“I always tell people to go and dream big, and I decided I needed to follow my own advice. This is what I wanted to do – so I’m going to try it. Of course, opening up your own store is really scary, but you need to take risks and go after what you want,” she said. 

Some people may talk to their hairdresser or their bartender or their priest about their problems, and Ange has found, since opening the store, she has become that person for people too – a job which she has happily accepted. Even though she’s not a psychologist, she knows firsthand the power that comes from opening up to someone else – even, and maybe especially, to a stranger. 

When customers see “It’s ok to not be ok” at her store, they can tell – this is a woman who is accepting. This is a woman who will listen. This is a woman who won’t judge me. And this is a woman I can trust.
“A lot of people tell me their stories and feel comfortable opening up to me. I feel like they’re almost more relieved to tell a stranger than someone they’re close with. I don’t think they need someone to solve their problems; they just want to talk about it. We all need to let it out sometimes,” she said. 

You can visit Inkcourage at 220 W 4th St, Royal Oak, MI from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. For more information about Ange, her business and her empowerment movement, visit or follow her on Instagram @GiveInkCourage

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