Women in self-storage: Angie Guerin, Executive VP, MakoRabco

Posted by Erica Shatzer on Mar 1, 2024 8:58:52 AM

Life is a gamble. We take risks without assurance that the outcomes of our actions or decisions will be favorable. Other times we leave things to chance, playing the hand we’re dealt. Every now and then, we make bets without certainty that we will win.  


When we lose, we can still gain experience (if we’re open to learning). And when we win, we just may end up changing the game in ways we could’ve never imagined.  

Perhaps no one in the self-storage industry understands the life-altering power of a bet better than Angie Guerin, executive vice president of MakoRabco, who made a $5 bet nearly two decades ago and won so much more than she wagered. 


In The Cards 

After graduating from college in 1999, Guerin landed an entry-level position as a receptionist for Tacoma, Wash.-based Tech-Fast Metal Systems, Inc. Though new to the workforce, she was eager to learn about the self-storage business and acquire knowledge from the company’s leadership. 


"The company was a well-respected and well-run business that put a huge emphasis on promoting from within,” she says. “I was impressed with the team they had built, the industry they were focused on, and the keen attention they paid to the value of client relationships.” 


During her eight years with the company, Guerin moved up the ranks several times, getting an on-the-job education in metal building construction management and self-storage engineering principles. 


After three years in operations, she decided to shift gears, opting to join Tech-Fast’s business development and marketing team as a regional sales manager. “I was enamored at this point with the storage industry and commercial construction, and loved my role as a project manager, but also felt that I’d be a more valuable asset to my clients if I understood the big picture. Accepting the sales role Tech-Fast offered was really an effort to become more ingrained in the overall experience of our clients.” 


Guerin goes on to say, “I settled strongly into a sales career early on,” noting that sales seemed to be the most natural fit for her personality. 


According to Guerin, her gender was another notable advantage, especially 24 to 25 years ago. “It was unique to be a woman in the storage business,” she says. “I believe it was both a differentiator and a benefit in addition to becoming trailblazers for other women. The space, over the years, has had a huge influx in women participants, and their representation is great for the space. It’s a lovely industry for them to plant their roots.” 


The Best Bet 

With an aptitude for selling, Guerin frequently attended industry-specific trade shows to promote Tech-Fast’s products and services, meet with prospective clients, and network with other self-storage professionals. Although expanding her customer base was her main objective for attending the annual events, she notes that it does not take long to forge friendships with other vendors, people who over the next two decades would become family. 


In 2005, Guerin attended the Inside Self-Storage (ISS) Expo in Las Vegas, Nev., as a vendor representative for Tech-Fast. At the lobby bar after the trade show concluded, she found herself seated next to Caesar Wright, the late executive chairman and CEO of MakoRabco. After exchanging pleasantries and friendly banter, they realized they were bidding on the same job (a self-storage development in Yucca Valley, Calif.) Guerin made a $5 bet with him that she would end up landing the contract. They sealed the bet with a handshake and went about their business.  


Wright discovered that he had lost the bet three to four months later. “He was very competitive, but he was a gentleman and paid his debt,” recalls Guerin. “That moment was the spark in our relationship.”  


It was that seemingly insignificant bet that elevated their business relationship into more of a friendship. “We were friendly but fierce competitors,” Guerin says, adding that attending industry trade shows enabled them to get to know each other better. 


Over time, their friendship blossomed into a romance. Then, in 2008, about three years after that fateful wager, the couple welcomed their daughter, Isabella, into the world. 


A New Hand 

Later that year, when Isabella was still an infant, Guerin made the decision to leave Tech-Fast and join Wright at Mako Steel as the national sales manager. When she first started at Mako, the company “didn’t have a sales team,” was “less diverse in structure,” and had little marketing strategy.” Guerin says Mako was operated “by three young guys who had a lot of charisma and paid keen attention to customer service, allowing them to leverage referrals to build business. There was a lot of untapped opportunity to grow the model strategically.”  


Despite being a new mother, Guerin was up to the task of strengthening the company. She and Wright combined their business books and effectively doubled the size of the company’s business development team. 


Angie Guerin 1Although her additional contacts were helpful, there was less construction work at the time because the country was experiencing its deepest recession since World War II. Therefore, Guerin focused on positioning Mako for success after of The Great Recession. She diligently worked on improving the company’s SEO and web presence. Research and development (R&D) and business development became priorities as well. “We were at the forefront of web-based lead generation, but knew that in order for our website to be an effective tool, we needed it to be informative and provide value, not just to a new developer but to the industry at large.”  


During those years, Guerin also dedicated ample time and resources into creating content that would help position Mako to lead the charge in educating potential developers about self-storage construction. “The investments we made during the slower years put us in a great position when the economic winds started to change.” 


Full House 

All the steps she and the company took during and after the recession resulted in substantial growth and increased value. “Over the 10 years post-recession, we became more than just a regional player in a niche market; it was a meteoric rise fueled by a commitment to provide the best of business practices and laser focus on the customer experience. Our growth story, and the company’s message, began to attract interest from the private equity market,” says Guerin. 


In August of 2019, New State Capital Partners acquired a majority stake in Carlsbad, Calif.-based Mako Steel in what was referred to as “a significant investment.” At that time, Mako was worth between $70 million and $80 million.  


Less than two years later, in March 2021, Mako and New State Capital Partners acquired a majority stake in Winter Garden, Fla.-based Rabco Enterprises LLC. Guerin was instrumental in the merger of Mako and Rabco, bringing together the companies’ two cultures and teams under one name: MakoRabco.  


“I had a 20-year friendship with Buster [Rabco President Emmett “Buster” Owens III],” she says, adding that their “solid relationship was beneficial” to the transition.  

Of the merger, Guerin notes that both Mako and Rabco were founder-led family businesses, which made it seem like a “marriage of two families.”  


“The beauty of it,” she says, is the ability to cross-utilize resources. “There is one heartbeat and two circulatory systems. It’s a case of one plus one equaling three.” 

MakoRabo is now a $200 million company.  


A Devastating Loss 

Following that momentous merger, Guerin and MakoRabco suffered a loss that shook the entire self-storage industry. On Aug. 16, 2022, Wright lost his battle with kidney cancer.  


“He was a powerful leader,” says Guerin. “We miss him—no question. He had a lot of faith in the team and was proud of the direction we were going.” 


Understandably, his passing has been a “significant grieving process” for her, their daughter, and everyone who knew him well. However, his legacy lives on in more ways than one.  


“He entrenched his philosophy and core values into the company,” she says, “so I still feel the power of his spirit at MakoRabco. It’s still ‘work hard, play hard,’ and the emphasis we put on family has never been stronger.”  

ANgie Guerin 3


Guerin goes on to say that being a member of the executive team, which she’s been a part of for a decade, enables her to carry on his legacy. “We try to honor him in the choices we make.” She also asks herself, “What would Caesar do?” before making tough decisions. “We were very connected in our thought process,” she adds, mentioning that their thoughts were oftentimes in alignment and that they worked in collaboration. “It’s an honor to be his voice at the table.” 


His memory is honored through Kure It as well. Guerin has joined the nonprofit’s board of directors and “doubled down” to “do good work” and raise funds to find cures for kidney cancer and other rare cancers. 


Moreover, some of Wright’s traits were passed on to Isabella, who is now 15 years old. “She is a crowd pleaser just like he was, she can command a room.” says Guerin.  


Upping The Ante 

Needless to say, the last year has been an adjustment for Guerin and the MakoRabco team, but they’ve continued to provide great service to their existing clientele while simultaneously seeking new ways to “attract the next generation of buyers.” Along those lines, MakoRabco has launched two new divisions: a door and hallways division in July and a safety division in November.  


Guerin also states that the company’s goals include enhancing the customer experience and services, maintaining its sterling reputation, and entering adjacent markets. “We want to bring the concept of “one family” into our relationships with our clients and prospects, provide mentorship where we can, and be of service to the people who choose to do business with us. The self-storage industry at large has been and continues to be a family of sorts to many of the self-storage veterans. It’s a legacy we hope to leave to the next generation of storage professionals.” 


“There is a lot of innovation in our space today” adds Guerin, who points to solar canopies, smart buildings, and concierge RV Storage as examples. “We want to continue to evolve and keep finding new ways to help our clients succeed in storage.”  


And as the company prepares for the next wave of construction and beyond, it will keep seeking partners and talent that can help MakoRabco streamline the construction process and enhance the customer experience.  


"My career in storage has been a love story, no question, and continues to be today. It’s a space that has offered a ton of opportunity, friendship, and deep connection, and I believe the industry has never been a more exciting place to be seated. I look forward to where the next 20 years takes our storage family and I’m grateful to be able to help new members, whether they are employees, vendors, or potential clients, find their place at the family table.”  



Erica Shatzer is the editor of Modern Storage Media.