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UC Alum Has a New Twist on Recycling — She Recycles Herself!

Question: What do you do with a master’s degree in sociology and 25-plus years of business experience in research, diversity training and strategic planning when you are at heart a poet and artist? Answer: Reduce, reuse, recycle!

Date: 7/3/2008
By: Wendy Beckman
Phone: (513) 556-1826
Photos By: Lisa Britton
Janet Metzelaar created t-covers, Inc., to wrap loved ones in memories.
Janet Metzelaar created t-covers, Inc., to wrap loved ones in memories.

That's what Janet Metzelaar did. President and founder of Beyond Data, Inc., a local market research firm, Janet received a gift request from her daughter on her 25th birthday that led her to create a second business — t-covers, Inc. — crafting memories into duvets, blankets and bedspreads.

“My daughter, Julie, had been an active member of Kappa Kappa Gamma while attending the University of Cincinnati and had accumulated more than 30 celebration T-shirts commemorating such things as annual rush, Kappa events, and her sorority’s many philanthropic activities,” Janet explains. “They were cluttering her closet, yet they represented cherished memories she wanted to savor.”

With a poet’s sensitivity and appreciation for beauty and yet a market researcher’s strategic vision, Janet set about cutting up her daughter’s T-shirt collection and designing a two-sided, keepsake “Kappa t-cover” for her.

“Julie and her fiancé Justin — a Sigma Chi and also a UC graduate — use their king-sized ‘t-quilt’ to wrap themselves in memories of their college life, enriched immeasurably by her experience as a Kappa,” says Janet. Julie, now an account executive at Mahan Advertising, stays in touch with her many Kappa friends and is now working with her mother to develop a marketing plan for the now-thriving business of t-covers, Inc.

Re-invention is not new for Janet Metzelaar. By most counts, she is on her third or fourth career. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in sociology from Michigan State University, along with a secondary teacher certification, with the help of sociology and statistics courses taken at the University of Cincinnati.

Paula J. Dubeck, an associate professor of sociology in the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences, had Janet as a student in graduate statistics and kept in touch with her intermittently after that. 

"Janet was bright and energetic," Dubeck recalls. "I enjoyed her in class because she was so capable and organized — and afterward because we shared interests. She was both 'no nonsense' and someone who saw humor in day-to-day happenings. I always enjoyed my conversations with her and knew her to be very savvy with regard to her work in market research."

When Janet made a t-cover for herself, she included symbols from Rotary, community theatre and many other favorite activities.
When Janet made a t-cover for herself, she included symbols from Rotary, community theatre and many other favorite activities.

“I loved coming down to the main campus of UC from Loveland to see the wonderful architecture, be part of the campus atmosphere, and spend time at the library,” Janet says. “I am always running into the many international students whom I have met through Cincinnati Rotary Club's annual welcome to international students, CROPNIS. UC is truly one of Cincinnati's treasures."

Janet started out her first career as a social worker in the 1960s, a teacher in the 70s, a market researcher and United Way research manager in the 80s and a business owner and entrepreneur in the 90s and 00s. She founded Beyond Data in 1995 as a market research, consulting and strategic planning firm. Besides being a certified woman-business enterprise, Beyond Data is also EDGE certified by the state of Ohio. Through Beyond Data, Janet will be involved with some of the final community research in the Agenda 360 Regional Action Plan.

In addition to daughter Julie, Janet also has another daughter, Wendy, and is the mother of sons Michael and Josh. Daughter Wendy, a graphic designer at Over-The-Rhine design firm Olika, designed the t-covers logo, and son Joshua is t-covers’ Webmaster. Son Mike, a recent graduate of Ohio University with a degree in geography/GIS, appreciates the recycling aspect of t-covers.

Janet is active in the Rotary Club of Cincinnati, including leadership in Rotary’s Group Study Exchange to improve global relations by hosting young professionals from other countries, and Rotary's CROPNIS, an annual weekend program at Camp Allyn to welcome international students to Greater Cincinnati.

Now in the 21st century, she is looking to take one more step in her quest to be a "Renaissance woman" — saving the landfills and recycling memories. And thus t-covers, Inc., was born.

“I use the T-shirts that my clients provide to make the ‘t-cover,’” she explains. “I cut out standard sizes from the T-shirts, taking care to include the graphics (front and/or back) to make a design that will become a ‘blanket of life.’
 

Students can wrap themselves in memories in what Janet calls
Students can wrap themselves in memories in what Janet calls 'the loveliest kind of recycling.'

Janet’s creations have included commemorative T-shirts from community theater, sports teams, sororities and fraternities, race events, weddings, organizations, baby clothes, reunions, school, alma maters, memorials, travels and vacations.

“Celebration T-shirts frame so many of our life experiences,” she says. “They commemorate special events and remind us of life milestones, achievements, events and friendships. Connecting these designs into a t-cover duvet, blanket or spread is my way of helping people wrap themselves in those wonderful memories. The desire to remember and honor the milestones of one's life covers all generations. T-covers are also a way to hold on to the past when people need to downsize or move into retirement communities.”

Janet says that she knows that the first term of college life, for example, is a turning point for many kids.


“A t-cover can help new students communicate where they've been, their interests, and that they were a ‘star’ in their former life,” she says. “For some, it is an ice-breaker that helps them connect to make new friends."

"What I like best," says Janet, "is that every t-cover is like making a unique gift, and in a small way, I can help honor someone's life."

Janet points out that for the person who has everything, organizations could use t-covers as unique "thank you gifts" to board members and major contributors.

Janet Metzelaar
Janet Metzelaar

Janet sees it both as a personal touch and an environmental “green” gift.

“This is the loveliest kind of recycling — taking what you have been saving perhaps for years and making them into a something that will bring you comfort, keep you warm, and become a one-of-a-kind work of art!”