Family Business

By Lauren MacLeod

Photo courtesy of the Holliday family

Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (CIE) has a new ally on the Central Coast — a Santa Barbara business incubator built by one family of proud Cal Poly alumni. Michael (M.A., Architecture, ‘83) and Beverly Holliday (Animal Science, ‘85) and their three sons Erik (Architecture, ‘14), Neil (Industrial Technology, ‘15) and Russ (Business Administration, ‘15) all worked together to build SYNERGY Business and Technology Center, a business incubator serving some of Santa Barbara’s most promising entrepreneurs.

The Holliday family launched SYNERGY in March 2012 in a building that also houses Michael’s architectural firm, DMHA Architecture + Interior Design. Erik, Neil and Russ helped Michael design and build the space, Beverly manages the incubator’s business operations, and Beverly’s father, Harlan Buchardi (Dairy Husbandry and Manufacturing certifications, ‘53), even created the incubator’s custom furniture.

SYNERGY offers a collaborative work environment for 28 companies and 52 individual entrepreneurs. The incubator connects those entrepreneurs with web consultants, design firms, marketing experts and venture capitalists as they grow their organizations. The incubator also hosts a range of events that aim to encourage entrepreneurship, including a recent Startup Weekend that challenged people to design, develop and launch a business venture within 54 hours.

As both an architect and an advocate for entrepreneurship, Michael has been a big supporter of Cal Poly’s efforts, working with the CIE to develop a new incubator space for campus. “Michael was the first person I turned to when we wanted to conceptualize what an entrepreneurship space on campus might look like and how it would function,” says Professor Jon York, faculty director of the CIE. “His experience with SYNERGY and his deep Cal Poly roots made him the perfect partner.”

Michael is proud that his family is helping nurture innovation on the Central Coast. “We’re giving back to a new generation of entrepreneurs and developing future business leaders for the challenging times ahead,” said Michael. “It’s a continuation of the Learn by Doing spirit.”

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