SARATOGA SPRINGS – When Matt Cummings, 32, and his graphic design business partner, Mike Miakisz, 31, put together a logo for American Pharoah this spring; the 3-year old colt had just dominated the Arkansas Derby, a key prep race for the Kentucky Derby. Little did they know they were designing what would become one of the most popular t-shirts of the summer racing season.
“He was one of the best 2-year olds last year,” said Cummings, co-owner of Ascot Creative with Miakisz. “Then he had a small injury and missed the Breeders Cup. When they brought him back this year and we watched him win a couple races, we knew that was the horse.”
Cummings and Miakisz, who have known each other since grade school, are Saratoga natives with a natural love for horseracing. Both went to college for design, settled into steady careers, and Miakisz started a family, but they both wanted just a little bit more from their American Dream. So over the last couple of years, they began a small entrepreneurial venture on the side, Ascot Creative, designing apparel for horseracing fans that would feature a particular horse or stable on t-shirts, hats and other items.
“We kinda know which are the popular horses in the horseracing fan base,” said Miakisz, “so we try to reach out to their owners and set up a licensing agreement to sell merchandise with their horses and stables on it. It benefits us, the owner, the stable, and horse racing fans in general.”
The two lifelong friends had no idea when they reached out for the licensing agreement on American Pharoah that they were creating a design for the horse that would win the Triple Crown for the first time in 37 years. Ascot Creative sales went up after the Kentucky Derby, then American Pharoah won the Preakness, sales went up again, and the rest is history, both for the horse and the entrepreneurs.
“There’s no comparison to what we did last year,” said Cummings. “I didn’t think going into the Kentucky Derby that we’d sell a hundred shirts, and didn’t even know what to expect. We had to come up with a new design after he won the Triple Crown, but we’re at about 600 for him and still going. Not only that, we are selling other shirt designs and hats, like Texas Red.”
The sales are all derived online at AscotCreative.com, through promotions on Facebook and Twitter. “It’s really amazing,” Cummings said. “We’ve even gotten orders from Australia, Japan and England.”
Both men feel good about the future of their design business. “This year we’ve established a relationship with some big-time owners,” said Miakisz, “which gives us some credibility with other owners, something we didn’t have before. And [American Pharoah’s] win has gotten our name out there to horseracing fans. We’ve had a great response.”