BlackHawk Data CEO Says Leaning On Your Channel Network Can Pay Off

In 2018, Maryann Pagano parted ways with her employer of 15 years but did not leave on good terms.

In her late forties, she had to pivot in her career and start anew, leaning on her channel network to start a business. With one friend who was a former colleague and the hustle to build a multimillion-dollar company, Pagano put her blood, sweat and tears to build a successful solution provider.

Pagano, CEO of New York-based, BlackHawk Data LLC, spoke at CRN parent company The Channel Company’s Women of the Channel West event in Palm Springs, Calif. last week. She shared her story with Carolyn Herr, VP of channel communities for The Channel Company, on lessons learned and how she built a multimillion-dollar company later in her career.

Pagano and her business partner Jason Caparoso founded BlackHawk Data, listed on the CRN 2023 Triple Crown list, as she said Caparoso has always been in her corner. While Caparoso is on the tech side, Pagano thrives on the business operations and sales side.

“Jason was one of those who always had my back and helps to balance me,” she said. “He keeps me balanced and sane…and reminds me of what we’ve done and how far we’ve come.”ADVERTISEMENT

BlackHawk was started with no investors and hardly any money, “we had the two of us and two cell phones.”

Pagano would call people she knew, “and eventually people started to pay attention to us.”

“I’ve given 25 years of my channel career to the channel and the channel paid it forward when I needed them to,” she said.

And it did indeed pay off as her first deal was worth $5.5 million.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the world shut down and she had no clients, so she reached back out to the channel. Relationships and partnerships she made with other solution providers and vendors over the years helped her out and gave her business to keep her afloat.

Because of that, and the blood, sweat and tears she put into her company, BlackHawk has about 50 employees and is on track to hit $100 million in revenue this year.

As a woman-owned business, Pagano has a huge focus on diversity, equity and inclusion and hiring the right fit for the company. She looks for people who are honest, value integrity and teamwork and think out of the box.

To the women coming up in the space, she said it’s so important to build their network, “because one day you’ll need that network.”

“Build the circle around you,” she said. “One day you may need them and they’ll come running when you need them.”

Leila Amiralai, senior channel engagement manager for AlertOps, echoed Pagano’s sentiment in that one’s network is so important.

“This resonated with me because I had to lean on my network to find my next job opportunity, being introduced to accomplished leaders in our space and being united with other incredible women who kept my spirits up,” she told CRN. “Without my network I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

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