Meet the Maidstone Innovation Team

Ahead of the imminent official launch of Maidstone’s newest high spec flexible office space, Maidstone Innovation Centre which is part funded by the EU Regional Development Fund, we meet the team working hard to ensure every detail of the building is just right for its new MedTech, health and life science tenants: Sarah Tobias, Sophie O’Sheen and Marina Ferguson.

Sarah Tobias, Innovation Centre Manager

1. What does your role involve?

My role is to lead the team and develop the centre. This includes everything from ensuring a good mix of tenants, supporting them, regularly reviewing services to make sure they’re getting what they need, and overseeing the marketing.

It also involves building a network of likeminded people. This is vital for helping to establish and grow start-ups and entrepreneurs and it’s something I’m really enthusiastic about.

2. Tell us a bit about your experience

My previous role was Project Manager for the Economic Development Team at Bexley Council, where I worked for 20 years. My last project involved refurbishing an innovation centre for tech, IT, coding, and research development businesses. It was built 13 years ago so the needs then were very different. So much has changed in that time – IT has come a long way and with London prices going up, lots of businesses are looking to move out of the capital.

My experience there transfers well to the MIC. It’s focused on a more niche market but it’s one that’s growing hugely particularly following covid, when we’re all aware of how MedTech affects us.

3. What does the MIC mean for Maidstone?

We’re creatures of habit. Lots of us live and work in our own little bubble and so don’t always get that exposure to other businesses or see the links that exist out there. The aim is that the MIC will inspire people to try ‘joint working’ and that this will drive new ideas. I saw it at the last innovation centre I managed. You’d see a web developer getting a coffee and talking to a programmer and that would spark an idea. That in turn could mean a need for employees resulting in more job opportunities. It has a knock-on effect for everyone in the area. It improves people’s quality of life and wellbeing and creates that prosperity.

4. What’s your favourite feature of the MIC?

A lot of the time buildings are converted into offices. I love that this has been purpose built as a flexible work space. There’s nowhere else like it. It’s so open and light. The views look out on lovely greenery and an award-winning nature reserve and the green wall looks amazing.

5. Now the centre is open for business, what are you most looking forward to?

I can’t wait to start building a network. We’re planning a great events calendar with lots of speakers giving talks on trends in the MedTech science world, as well as utilising our links with Kent County Council and the NHS. There’s a big market out there and it’s about creating that interconnectivity.

Mostly, I’m really looking forward to helping Maidstone to flourish. I feel so lucky to wake up every day feeling excited about my work. Sophie, Marina and I are a new team but we’ve really bonded and they’re as passionate as I am. There’s so much diversity in our roles, there really won’t be any time to get bored!

6. Tell us a bit about you and what you enjoy in your spare time

I’m really sociable and love spending time with family. Fitness and wellbeing is important to me so I’m into yoga and meditation. I also find cooking very therapeutic. I’m half Indian, half Lebanese and as well as those cuisines, I enjoy cooking Thai and Japanese food.
Travelling is another hobby. I’ve visited a lot of South America and Asia but my favourite country is India – I particularly love Goa, it’s such a melting pot of cultures. I also ski and my last trip was to Andorra with my family. My sons weren’t great skiers when we arrived but by the end of the holiday, they were brilliant and showing off all the tricks and turns!

Sophie O’Sheen, Innovation Centre Coordinator

1. What does your role involve?

During the build, I’ve been responsible for liaising with our contractors, Rydon, but going forward my main role will be liaising with tenants. I’ll be really getting to know them and understanding what they want out of the building and services. I’ll also be managing marketing and events as well as looking after health and safety in the building.

2. Tell us a bit about your experience

I’d already worked with Maidstone Borough Council for a year prior to joining the MIC, starting out as the Business Centre Coordinator at the Business Terrace. My role there involved facilities and office management, marketing and dealing with tenant enquiries. It paved the way for me to join the MIC team. I’m bringing with me lots of connections in the Maidstone business world and an understanding of how MBC processes work. I was also born and bred in the area so I know it well and have a genuine interest in helping it to succeed!

3. What does the MIC mean for Maidstone?

I think it’s bringing a different type of office space to Maidstone. It’s definitely not your regular four walls – it’s a feature piece in an area of outstanding beauty. As it’s focused specifically on MedTech, healthcare and life sciences, it has a really bespoke feel. And flexibility is a really important part of the design. It’s meant to be a real home for businesses – somewhere where they can start and grow for many years, not just a temporary stop gap.

4. What’s your favourite feature of the MIC?

Definitely the green wall! I’ve joked to the team that I want it named after me! It came out just as I hoped it would. We had CGI images created before it was completed and it looks exactly as it was designed to. I absolutely adore it!
The surrounding area is lovely too. Whichever window you look out of, there’s lots of green and light. There’s a nature reserve nearby and I’m looking forward to cycling or walking through it on my way to work.

5. Now the centre is open for business, what are you most looking forward to?

I’m really looking forward to seeing businesses use the building and having somewhere they feel proud of, that they can show off. It’s definitely somewhere they can take their clients and visitors to be wowed. From the moment you walk in, it’s really impressive. We recently had feature lighting installed in the atrium and it just looks amazing. I can’t wait to see how the tenants make it their own.

6. Tell us a bit about you and what you enjoy in your spare time

I’m a huge film buff and I particularly love the director, Wes Anderson. He’s my idol – I’ve got all his films and books.
I also love crafts – crochet, knitting, making photo frames, all sorts! I recently snipped up a calendar and made some William Morris designs and I’m currently working on a cross stitch of Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers.’ Wherever I can, I like to bring that creativity to my job and help out on any design work.

Marina Ferguson, Executive Assistant

1. What does your role involve?

My job is to support the team on everything from marketing, to tenant liaison and the day-to-day running of the centre. I’ll be based at reception so I’ll be there to greet tenants and visitors too.

2. Tell us a bit about your experience

I’ve always been involved in property. Before joining the MIC team, I worked in emergency accommodation with the housing team at Medway council. It gave me a lot of experience of working with contractors and ensuring properties were suitable for purpose. Prior to that, I worked for a family-run estate agency while studying at university. It was a very small company up against the big dogs of the property world and I got some great experience of working within an independent business and the challenges they faced.

3. What does MIC mean for Maidstone?

Maidstone is already on the map but the MIC will put more emphasis on the MedTech, science and healthcare sectors. It’s going to open up so many opportunities for collaboration. We’ll be hosting all sorts of events and seminars so it’s a great chance for local businesses to get involved in a local network. It’s ideal for businesses in those specific sectors who are currently home-based to take the next step.

4. What’s your favourite feature of the MIC?

A lot of thought has gone into the design. I’m a big fan of the surrounding nature and the building has huge top to bottom windows so you can really make the most of the outside. It lets in so much light and feels so airy – being able to see all the green outside when you’re in the building is so good for the soul and just creates a lovely atmosphere. The interior is largely glass too, so it really encourages people to mix and get together.

5. Now the centre is open for business, what are you most looking forward to?

I’m excited to find out what other types of business we’ll bring in and how they’ll tailor the space to make it what they want it to be. It’s such a dynamic building and our sector focus is really interesting, so I know we’ll have some really exciting new tenants. In this sector, you could get anything – the next big revolutionary idea could come out of the MIC!
Also, coming from a huge team at Medway, I’m really proud that we’re a small, all-female team – I feel like we’re a powerhouse and can’t wait to see what we’ll achieve.

6. Tell us a bit about you and what you enjoy in your spare time

I travel a lot and have been to several different continents. I’m from Bulgaria but my favourite country is South Africa, where my husband is from. We both love food so we mainly travel to eat and it’s something I can’t wait to get back to!

Meet the Maidstone Innovation Team

Ahead of the imminent official launch of Maidstone’s newest high spec flexible office space, Maidstone Innovation Centre which is part funded by the EU Regional Development Fund, we meet the team working hard to ensure every detail of the building is just right for its new MedTech, health and life science tenants: Sarah Tobias, Sophie O’Sheen and Marina Ferguson.

Sarah Tobias, Innovation Centre Manager

1. What does your role involve?

My role is to lead the team and develop the centre. This includes everything from ensuring a good mix of tenants, supporting them, regularly reviewing services to make sure they’re getting what they need, and overseeing the marketing.

It also involves building a network of likeminded people. This is vital for helping to establish and grow start-ups and entrepreneurs and it’s something I’m really enthusiastic about.

2. Tell us a bit about your experience

My previous role was Project Manager for the Economic Development Team at Bexley Council, where I worked for 20 years. My last project involved refurbishing an innovation centre for tech, IT, coding, and research development businesses. It was built 13 years ago so the needs then were very different. So much has changed in that time – IT has come a long way and with London prices going up, lots of businesses are looking to move out of the capital.

My experience there transfers well to the MIC. It’s focused on a more niche market but it’s one that’s growing hugely particularly following covid, when we’re all aware of how MedTech affects us.

3. What does the MIC mean for Maidstone?

We’re creatures of habit. Lots of us live and work in our own little bubble and so don’t always get that exposure to other businesses or see the links that exist out there. The aim is that the MIC will inspire people to try ‘joint working’ and that this will drive new ideas. I saw it at the last innovation centre I managed. You’d see a web developer getting a coffee and talking to a programmer and that would spark an idea. That in turn could mean a need for employees resulting in more job opportunities. It has a knock-on effect for everyone in the area. It improves people’s quality of life and wellbeing and creates that prosperity.

4. What’s your favourite feature of the MIC?

A lot of the time buildings are converted into offices. I love that this has been purpose built as a flexible work space. There’s nowhere else like it. It’s so open and light. The views look out on lovely greenery and an award-winning nature reserve and the green wall looks amazing.

5. Now the centre is open for business, what are you most looking forward to?

I can’t wait to start building a network. We’re planning a great events calendar with lots of speakers giving talks on trends in the MedTech science world, as well as utilising our links with Kent County Council and the NHS. There’s a big market out there and it’s about creating that interconnectivity.

Mostly, I’m really looking forward to helping Maidstone to flourish. I feel so lucky to wake up every day feeling excited about my work. Sophie, Marina and I are a new team but we’ve really bonded and they’re as passionate as I am. There’s so much diversity in our roles, there really won’t be any time to get bored!

6. Tell us a bit about you and what you enjoy in your spare time

I’m really sociable and love spending time with family. Fitness and wellbeing is important to me so I’m into yoga and meditation. I also find cooking very therapeutic. I’m half Indian, half Lebanese and as well as those cuisines, I enjoy cooking Thai and Japanese food.
Travelling is another hobby. I’ve visited a lot of South America and Asia but my favourite country is India – I particularly love Goa, it’s such a melting pot of cultures. I also ski and my last trip was to Andorra with my family. My sons weren’t great skiers when we arrived but by the end of the holiday, they were brilliant and showing off all the tricks and turns!

Sophie O’Sheen, Innovation Centre Coordinator

1. What does your role involve?

During the build, I’ve been responsible for liaising with our contractors, Rydon, but going forward my main role will be liaising with tenants. I’ll be really getting to know them and understanding what they want out of the building and services. I’ll also be managing marketing and events as well as looking after health and safety in the building.

2. Tell us a bit about your experience

I’d already worked with Maidstone Borough Council for a year prior to joining the MIC, starting out as the Business Centre Coordinator at the Business Terrace. My role there involved facilities and office management, marketing and dealing with tenant enquiries. It paved the way for me to join the MIC team. I’m bringing with me lots of connections in the Maidstone business world and an understanding of how MBC processes work. I was also born and bred in the area so I know it well and have a genuine interest in helping it to succeed!

3. What does the MIC mean for Maidstone?

I think it’s bringing a different type of office space to Maidstone. It’s definitely not your regular four walls – it’s a feature piece in an area of outstanding beauty. As it’s focused specifically on MedTech, healthcare and life sciences, it has a really bespoke feel. And flexibility is a really important part of the design. It’s meant to be a real home for businesses – somewhere where they can start and grow for many years, not just a temporary stop gap.

4. What’s your favourite feature of the MIC?

Definitely the green wall! I’ve joked to the team that I want it named after me! It came out just as I hoped it would. We had CGI images created before it was completed and it looks exactly as it was designed to. I absolutely adore it!
The surrounding area is lovely too. Whichever window you look out of, there’s lots of green and light. There’s a nature reserve nearby and I’m looking forward to cycling or walking through it on my way to work.

5. Now the centre is open for business, what are you most looking forward to?

I’m really looking forward to seeing businesses use the building and having somewhere they feel proud of, that they can show off. It’s definitely somewhere they can take their clients and visitors to be wowed. From the moment you walk in, it’s really impressive. We recently had feature lighting installed in the atrium and it just looks amazing. I can’t wait to see how the tenants make it their own.

6. Tell us a bit about you and what you enjoy in your spare time

I’m a huge film buff and I particularly love the director, Wes Anderson. He’s my idol – I’ve got all his films and books.
I also love crafts – crochet, knitting, making photo frames, all sorts! I recently snipped up a calendar and made some William Morris designs and I’m currently working on a cross stitch of Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers.’ Wherever I can, I like to bring that creativity to my job and help out on any design work.

Marina Ferguson, Executive Assistant

1. What does your role involve?

My job is to support the team on everything from marketing, to tenant liaison and the day-to-day running of the centre. I’ll be based at reception so I’ll be there to greet tenants and visitors too.

2. Tell us a bit about your experience

I’ve always been involved in property. Before joining the MIC team, I worked in emergency accommodation with the housing team at Medway council. It gave me a lot of experience of working with contractors and ensuring properties were suitable for purpose. Prior to that, I worked for a family-run estate agency while studying at university. It was a very small company up against the big dogs of the property world and I got some great experience of working within an independent business and the challenges they faced.

3. What does MIC mean for Maidstone?

Maidstone is already on the map but the MIC will put more emphasis on the MedTech, science and healthcare sectors. It’s going to open up so many opportunities for collaboration. We’ll be hosting all sorts of events and seminars so it’s a great chance for local businesses to get involved in a local network. It’s ideal for businesses in those specific sectors who are currently home-based to take the next step.

4. What’s your favourite feature of the MIC?

A lot of thought has gone into the design. I’m a big fan of the surrounding nature and the building has huge top to bottom windows so you can really make the most of the outside. It lets in so much light and feels so airy – being able to see all the green outside when you’re in the building is so good for the soul and just creates a lovely atmosphere. The interior is largely glass too, so it really encourages people to mix and get together.

5. Now the centre is open for business, what are you most looking forward to?

I’m excited to find out what other types of business we’ll bring in and how they’ll tailor the space to make it what they want it to be. It’s such a dynamic building and our sector focus is really interesting, so I know we’ll have some really exciting new tenants. In this sector, you could get anything – the next big revolutionary idea could come out of the MIC!
Also, coming from a huge team at Medway, I’m really proud that we’re a small, all-female team – I feel like we’re a powerhouse and can’t wait to see what we’ll achieve.

6. Tell us a bit about you and what you enjoy in your spare time

I travel a lot and have been to several different continents. I’m from Bulgaria but my favourite country is South Africa, where my husband is from. We both love food so we mainly travel to eat and it’s something I can’t wait to get back to!

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