Women in self-storage: Rachel Parham, President of Noah’s Ark

Posted by Erica Shatzer on Mar 1, 2024 9:19:58 AM

1986 was a year filled with memorable firsts in the United States. The first federal Martin Luther King Jr. Day was observed. IBM created the first laptop computer. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted its first group of musicians. About 6.5 million Americans linked together to form the first (and only) human chain to stretch across the country through Hands Across America. Twenty-year-old Mike Tyson won his first world boxing title. Mike Parham founded his first business, National Development Services, the construction company that would later be known as NDS Construction. And he and his wife, Ann Parham, welcomed their first child, Rachel Parham. 


Storage Upbringing 

Rachel was born into the self-storage industry and says that growing up in it has been an awesome experience that enabled her to form lifelong bonds with many of the sector’s key players and acquire an immense wealth of indispensable, storage-related knowledge.  


Some of her earliest memories of the family business include making forts under her father’s huge office desk with her two younger siblings and going on “field trips” to job sites, where she’d don a hardhat as an honorary member of the construction crew. 


“I was always by his side, hanging onto every word he said. He treated me like his intern, and he was such a great teacher,” Rachel says about her father, Mike, whom she describes as a true family man. “He was loving and always wanted us around.” 


As a matter of fact, he’d oftentimes find ways to transform his business trips into family vacations. “We’d shop stores during vacations and visit job sites. He saw every situation as an opportunity to learn and have fun. He was a highly intelligent man,” she recalls, adding that they frequently visited Walt Disney World in Florida before or after looking at potential development sites and/or checking on their portfolio of Noah’s Ark Self Storage facilities in the Sunshine State. Rachel also accompanied her dad on business trips in Colorado, enjoying father-daughter time in the great outdoors around self-storage property visits. 


Those kinds of fun-filled business trips continued into her adulthood, but she began taking on more responsibilities within the Parham Group’s three companies (NDS Construction, Noah’s Ark Development [founded in 1993], and Joshua Management [founded in 1997]) as she matured. From sweeping empty units and painting bollards, to cleaning facilities, hanging unit numbers, answering phones, and writing an operation manual, she was learning the management and operation side of the business during the weekends and summer breaks. She’d also assisted with market studies, using paper maps and pushpins to identify self-storage facilities and evaluate the demand within a given market. At 17 years old, she was officially working on her first self-storage development site, Noah’s Ark Self Storage #22 in Orlando, a two phased project with 92,150 gross square feet of climate-controlled and non-climate-controlled self-storage on 5.02 acres.  


“I’m happy to have had a background in self-storage,” Rachel says. “I learned a lot about responsibilities, work ethic, and values from my parents.” 


Rachel Parham Following her high school graduation, Rachel attended Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas—about three hours away from the company’s Bulverde-based headquarters. After consideration of her acceptance to Georgetown University, recognizing that she’d be an exceptional litigator, ultimately, her dislike for reading lengthy contracts pushed her to reconsider how she’d eventually use her degrees (a Bachelor of Science degree in renewable natural resources with a minor in rangeland ecology and management, a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science with an emphasis in foreign securities, and a graduate certificate from Texas A&M’s Bush School of Government and Public Service).  


In 2008 and 2009, Rachel was awarded a scholarship with Texas A&M University’s Public Policy Internship Program and Agricultural & Natural Resources Policy Internship Program. This afforded her the opportunities to work in Washington, D.C., for the Department of Justice Office of Legislative Affairs and the House of Representatives Texas 21st Congressional District under Congressman Lamar Smith’s office. Upon completion of these programs, Rachel continued her stint in D.C., working for the Drug Enforcement Administration Congressional and Public Affairs Office.  


Then, in 2012, Rachel was in between jobs and considering moving back to Washington, D.C., to accept a position with the Defense Intelligence Agency, when Mike called and offered her a position at Noah’s Ark Development. She started as a development consultant, but it wasn’t long before she was promoted to president of development. Approximately two short years after joining the team, Rachel stepped into the role of president of Noah’s Ark Development following Mike’s untimely passing on Nov. 18, 2014. 


“I feel blessed that I had the opportunity to work alongside him in a more professional capacity, even though it was shorter than I ever imagined. He entrusted me in the development of multi-million-dollar projects with minimal oversight. It was an honor to collaborate with the person who taught me everything I know about this business and my contributions be highly valued,” she says.  


Lasting Legacy 

Although Rachel was understandably heartbroken by the loss of her beloved father, role model, mentor, and friend, she has honored him by upholding his high-quality standards for their top-tier developments, giving back to the community, serving as a mentor to co-workers and other industry professionals, and running the family business with the same level of enthusiasm.  

Rachel Parham and family


In addition to fostering her love for nature and fly fishing through camping trips, she says Mike passed his passion for self-storage development onto her and taught her by example how to always give 100 percent. 


“I’m the female version of him,” says Rachel, who mentions that her mother, Ann, CEO and president of the Parham Group, often claims it’s like “déjà vu” watching her daughter because Rachel’s work ethics and mannerisms are so similar to those of her late husband.  


Rachel recognizes that Ann is the glue holding everything together. “My father would often credit our family’s success to my mother, knowing that none of this would be possible without her. I am so grateful that she supported me and the business after his passing. She’s the strongest woman I know, and I’m proud to be her daughter.” 


Now, Rachel continues to follow in her parents’ footsteps, forging ahead with great plans to augment the family business with additional kinds of real estate developments, such as office/warehouse—an option she knows would be a “good sister to self-storage” since it uses the same building materials and same development process. 


Parham Self Storage“I only know commercial development. I don’t know anything else,” she jests about being in the storage sector her entire life. But Rachel isn’t one to become complacent, especially when it comes to learning. A permanent student of life, she can be found reading educational books regarding economics, construction, and commercial real estate development when she isn’t putting in long hours for one of Noah’s Ark Development’s clients.  


“I live by the thought that I can do anything I put my mind to,” says Rachel. It’s a belief that her parents instilled in her that’s given her the confidence to overcome various obstacles in the development process and forge innovative ideas/methods to compete and adapt in an ever-changing economy.   


In order to grow and adapt, Rachel emphasizes the necessity to build new relationships with investors, residential and commercial developers across the country, and general contractors outside the self-storage sector. She’s also put ample effort into establishing and strengthening partnerships with various industry vendors, including Janus International, whose Nokē® Smart Entry access control system enables them to remotely manage smaller sites within rural and secondary markets while simultaneously reducing operating expenses and providing customers with 24/7 access. Going forward, Rachel and her brother David, president of Joshua Management, plan to expand the Noah’s Ark Self Storage portfolio that would be owned and operated by the Parham Group. (Since the company’s inception, it has built and sold several self-storage portfolios, but many of the facilities Mike built in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s are still standing, and Rachel still relishes passing by them in her travels throughout the United States.)  


“Finding good people to work with is important,” she says, adding that “not all money is good money,” when it comes to taking jobs and/or making deals. 

For those reasons, and countless others, Rachel is grateful to work alongside her mother and brother, as well as approximately 15 employees whom she says are all members of the extended Parham family.  


“We are there from beginning to end with a project,” says Rachel. “That takes a lot out of you, but having a good team and support helps. I’m surrounded by intelligent, motivated people who like to problem solve. It’s a fun dynamic with people from different generations.”  


She goes on to say that they “come together and get through any storm”—an all-hands-on-deck approach that strengthens bonds, builds character, and provides both teachable moments and learning opportunities for the entire team.  

“I try to guide people,” Rachel says about co-workers and clients alike. “I don’t want to see any one fail.”  


Like her father, she believes that “an educated industry is a successful, smart industry,” which is why she attends storage-specific conferences and emphasizes the company’s “Go/No-Go Process”—a five-step process that has helped ensure the development success of over 10,000,000 net rentable square feet across the country. Taking a project from concept to completion is Noah’s Ark Developments specialty. In the “Pre-Development phase” Rachel and her team utilize the “Go/No-Go Process” to determine a market’s demand for self-storage. They research the market to identify the prospective client base and design a facility/unit mix based on the market's needs and culture to ensure success in any economic climate. “This is the most important phase of the development process. The Go/No-Go Process determines the demand and feasibility of a project. By utilizing the experience of all three Parham Group companies, we help developers save time and money to determine if a project should move forward.” 


Since taking the reins of Noah’s Ark Development and NDS Construction, she has personally overseen the development/construction of 25 self-storage facilities (third party and Noah’s Ark Self Storage), consulted as an Owner Representative for numerous third-party ventures, and handled the sale of two Noah’s Ark Self Storage portfolios.     


Above all, she finds pouring her “blood, sweat, and tears” into her work to be genuinely fulfilling. “There is nothing like building from the ground up,” Rachel says. “It’s the most rewarding feeling in the world!” 



Erica Shatzer is the editor of Modern Storage Media.