Before The Mill, Pat East spent most of his days at this Bloomington Starbucks, building his business and meeting associates. Photo by Martin Boling


Pat East launched Hanapin Marketing in a spare bedroom with an initial investment of $2,000—the cost of a laptop computer. It grew into a 75-employee industry leader in pay- per-click advertising and merged with U.K.-based Brainlabs in 2020. Now East is executive director of The Mill, a nonprofit coworking space in Bloomington’s Trades District that supports entrepreneurs. “This is a way to make sure that other folks who come after me can grow their companies with less stress and less bruising than what I went through,” East says.

East, 43, grew up in Martinsville, Indiana, and although he always wanted to start a business, he skipped economics classes and majored in English at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana. He credits his liberal arts education for his ability to interpret the novel situations entrepreneurs face.

A month before graduating in 2000, East interviewed for a marketing position at what is now Author Solutions, the self- publishing company based in Bloomington. He wanted interview practice, not the job, but ended up taking the position. He became adept at placing pay-per-click advertisements, such as the sponsored links that appear at the top of an internet search. In 2004, East started Hanapin, which means “to search” in Filipino, the language spoken in his mother’s home country, the Philippines.

Bloomington didn’t then have the entrepreneurial infrastructure it does today. East regularly traveled to Indianapolis to make the connections that would allow Hanapin to build a client list that included The Weather Channel, Home Depot, and the University
of Chicago.

In 2015, East took a break from Hanapin’s day-to-day operations. “I had been sprinting a marathon for 10 or 12 years, and I was tired,” he says. The company ran fine without him, and his break became indefinite. He spent his free time advising other people starting businesses in Bloomington.

He was so useful to the Bloomington Economic Development Corporation as it was planning The Mill that the BEDC hired East to run the nonprofit organization when it launched in 2017. In addition to managing 19,000 square feet of coworking space with about 300 members, East drives a number of initiatives to provide funding and expertise for startups. New initiatives include Bloomington Remote, which entices people who can work anywhere to relocate here, and ReBoot, a new-business program for formerly incarcerated people (see Page 62).

East and wife Jamie have two children—Calder, 15, and Mia, 10— whose sports activities keep them busy.