This College Student’s Employer Found His TikTok Profile Online – And He Was Fired On The Spot

From tone-deaf tweets to ill-conceived Instagram posts, employees can often find themselves in trouble in the workplace due to their questionable social-media activity. But poor Tony Piloseno found himself on the wrong side of his job’s HR department with what seemed to be one of the purest profiles on TikTok. And it was his artistic videos that resulted in his dismissal.

So who exactly is Tony Piloseno? Well, at the time of his firing, the TikTok star was 22 years of age and studying at Ohio University. Piloseno, who hails from Medina, began making a name for himself on the video-sharing platform in 2019, racking up well over a million followers thanks to his colorful clips.

Under his “tonesterpaints” handle, Piloseno garnered acclaim with a series of videos in which he used various pre-existing paint colors to create different hues. The marketing major will often conclude his TikToks with an unexpected “mystery color.” He also responds to messages from viewers fascinated with what he can do with paint.

Speaking to BuzzFeed News in November 2020, Piloseno revealed exactly what inspired his unusual but extremely creative passion. “I love how colors blend together, what goes with what,” he told the site. “It’s hard to explain, but I really enjoy mixing paint. I like showing what stuff it can do.”

And Piloseno revealed that he planned to continue pursuing this creative streak after graduating from Ohio University’s College of Business. He added, “I really want to work in the paint industry along with social media itself, while still making content.” Of course, Piloseno isn’t the only person to find fame on social media thanks to the art of paint-mixing.

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Christian Hull, a comic from Australia, has also built quite the following on TikTok thanks to his endearing responses to seeing new colors take shape. The Melbourne native attempts to predict what the outcome of other people’s paint-mixing videos will be. And his responses to the big reveals are often just as colorful as the paint on display.

Hull has attracted some high-profile fans. Rebecca Jennings from the Vox website once tweeted that her “main source of joy is this guy who frantically guesses what color the paint is going to be.” Food writer Jake Cohen also remarked on Twitter, “I went from completely disinterested to fully invested in what this paint was going to look like so fast. This guy is amazing.”

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But it was Piloseno’s very own paint-mixing efforts that truly took TikTok by storm. That’s right: it didn’t take long for tonesterpaints to become one of the video-sharing platform’s most popular artistic accounts. The Ohio student was already clocking up a million views with only his sixth TikTok clip.

It isn’t hard to understand why tonesterpaints took off almost as soon as Piloseno downloaded TikTok. The Medina native will often complement his paint-mixing activities with an energetic and apt musical soundtrack. He also uses speedy editing techniques to make the art of mixing colors seem as exciting as a Hollywood action movie.

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Piloseno will sometimes even appear in the TikTok clips himself, usually sporting a pair of glasses and a beanie hat. The student will occasionally narrate a step-by-step guide to his paint-mixing activities, too. And he then typically tops it all off with a series of hashtags such as #LittleBitFancy and #satisfying.

One of Piloseno’s most popular videos resulted from an inspired use of fruit. Yes, this particular clip sees the 20-something throw a handful of blueberries into a tin of neutral colored-paint. After working his magic, Piloseno reveals a striking shade of blue, appropriately soundtracked by rapper Lil Mosey’s “Blueberry Faygo.”

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And Piloseno’s activities will often inspire his viewers to head to their nearest DIY store to get their hands on a similar creation. One particular firm was bombarded with requests for the student’s blueberry color, for instance. Unfortunately for Piloseno, though, this demand was also partly responsible for him being fired from his job.

Yes, you may be wondering how on Earth Piloseno managed to get his hands on so many different paints in the first place. Well, he had easy access to every color imaginable thanks to the part-time job he had while studying at the University of Ohio. That’s right: Piloseno was an employee at DIY paint store Sherwin-Williams.

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In his chat with BuzzFeed News, Piloseno explained how the idea for his tonesterpaints account came about. “I’d just downloaded TikTok, and the videos took off almost immediately,” he said. “It was just me doing a few customer orders here and there. When we were slow, I was making videos showing the process of it all.”

Piloseno insists that he initially only ever filmed paints that were already due to be blended for the store’s customers. The student also revealed that when the demand for his videos continued to rise, he used his entitlement to staff concessions to buy extra paint. But apparently Sherwin-Williams bosses were outraged when they found out.

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Speaking to BuzzFeed News, Piloseno explained, “They first accused me of stealing – I told them I purchased all my paint. They made me answer a bunch of questions like when I was doing this, where, if there was anyone in the store while I was doing [filming]. There was never anyone with me while I was doing it.”

Piloseno’s denials of any wrongdoing are backed up by the fact that he actually alerted Sherwin-Williams to his account. The marketing student believed bosses would be interested in how his TikTok activities could help the firm engage with its customers and draw in new ones, too. Sadly for Piloseno, though, the company didn’t appreciate him using his initiative.

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According to reports, Piloseno first tried to get Sherwin-Williams on board in the spring of 2020 with a pitch deck intended to demonstrate how TikTok could be used to strengthen brand awareness. After getting the seal of approval from a local director, the student took his idea to the firm’s HQ. The response there was apathetic, though, to say the least.

“I emailed [the marketing contact] about two or three times,” Piloseno explained. “I even reached out to him on LinkedIn. It took two months to get a response from him. He basically told me that there wasn’t really any promotions going on, so there wasn’t a need to see the presentation.”

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Soon after, though, Piloseno was contacted by Sherwin-Williams’ loss prevention team about his TikTok videos. Not only had the firm been unimpressed by his publicity pitch, but it’d also become concerned about the unorthodox nature of his posts. The organic blueberry paint clip, in particular, had apparently caused a headache for the inquiries department.

So rather than encouraging Piloseno’s efforts to grow their business, Sherwin-Williams’ bosses gave him his marching orders. The firm apparently wasn’t too keen on the idea that the 22-year-old had used store materials to make his viral hits. And it also didn’t like the fact he filmed them on company time.

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In the records that BuzzFeed News acquired, it was revealed that Piloseno had been dismissed for alleged “gross misconduct.” Sherwin-Williams argued that the TikTok star had wasted both “facilities” and “properties” while filming his paint-mixing clips. It also claimed that Piloseno was guilty of causing the firm a great deal of embarrassment.

As you’d expect, though, Piloseno was left stunned by the company’s decision. “I never got a chance to tell my side of the story,” he told BuzzFeed News. “I thought an HR person would call me about it – I never even talked to my district manager. I was pretty p***** at first, but there was nothing I could really do.”

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Piloseno also expressed his disappointment in an interview with The Athens News. He said, “I mean honestly, I didn’t think they were going to fire me. Like I said, I really loved working for Sherwin-Williams. I loved the process of paint – everything about paint basically. I loved all my co-workers at the Athens store. I loved all the customers. The Athens community is very, very good.”

When contacted by BuzzFeed News about the issue, Sherwin-Williams claimed that it’d been forced to take action after being contacted by a disgruntled customer. It isn’t clear what the alleged problem was, though. But the firm believed that it was strong enough to look into the matter and subsequently fire Piloseno.

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Unsurprisingly, Piloseno’s fans were left outraged when they heard of the news. Someone following the story on Twitter remarked, “They fired you?? It’s 2020 and companies still don’t understand the benefit of digital/social marketing.” Another reader commented, “Y’all literally blew a 3-1 lead, this kid created something worth thousands and thousands for you for basically retail wages and y’all threw it away.”

Then there was the Twitter user who contrasted Sherwin-Williams’ conduct with that of Ocean Spray. The drinks manufacturer had greatly benefited from Dogface, a social media influencer, skateboarding to Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” in a TikTok clip while sipping a carton of the company’s finest. Instead of getting angry, though, Ocean Spray offered to partner with the viral star.

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And several marketing experts were also unimpressed by Sherwin-Williams’ seemingly rash decision as well. For instance, a senior VP at publicity firm Walker Sands named Andrew Cross told Ad Age, “They sent a signal, as loud as it was unintentional, that employees who do what they’re told are more valuable than employees who think outside the box. They’ve unintentionally stifled employee ingenuity.”

Thankfully, though, the whole debacle didn’t deter Piloseno from exploring his passion. He used his friend’s basement to keep making his videos. And it came as little surprise to learn that the viral star was no longer purchasing his materials from Sherwin-Williams. “I bought myself a light box,” Piloseno explained to BuzzFeed News. “I bought some empty gallons at Lowe’s – I basically started shopping at Lowe’s afterward.”

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But Piloseno’s ambitions didn’t end there. “I’m working on making a logo,” he added. “I just bought a domain name to make my own website. I’m hoping to sell my own merchandise and my own paint colors.” The student had previously failed to make much money from his mixing skills on TikTok as he wasn’t involved with the platform’s Creator Fund.

Piloseno didn’t have to wait long to find gainful employment again, either. Thanks to the publicity surrounding his dismissal, the marketing major was bombarded with proposals from almost every notable paint firm in America. In the end, Piloseno decided to accept the invitation from an unimaginatively named Florida outfit.

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Piloseno explained his reasoning to BuzzFeed News. “I talked to a bunch of people from a bunch of companies,” he said. “But Don Strube, the co-owner of Florida Paints, he really connected with me when he called me and talked about his passion for paint. I found that very special.”

And Piloseno also sang his new employer’s praises in a chat with Ad Age. The marketing student revealed that he’d been in touch with the likes of Benjamin Moore, PPG and Behr as well. But in the end, it was the friendly spirit of Florida Paints that convinced him that this was the company to harness his talents.

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“I went through meetings with a bunch of companies,” Piloseno continued. “The difference between them and Florida Paints is I was trying to get away from the corporate culture of things.” The Medina native also believes that Strube was the only boss who shared his appreciation for paint, adding, “We both view it as an art form.”

Strube appeared to be just as bowled over by Piloseno, telling Ad Age, “He is a really impressive young man. I want him to have all the tools he can to express his art. Paint and color are things that can change moods and brighten a community, and that’s exactly what we’re about.”

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Yet Strube still recognizes why Piloseno’s efforts weren’t appreciated in his old job. “Sherwin-Williams is a good company and with any large organization you have to create boundaries,” he added. “And I think it’s probably just that it has so many things coming across their desk every day and you have to have corporate policy. We have more of a family-oriented corporate style.”

Strube even expressed sympathy for one of his rivals for the negative publicity it’d received in the wake of Piloseno’s firing. He told U.S. Campaign, “I kind of feel bad for them, because when you’re really big you have to have boundaries and policies because otherwise there will be chaos. This is one of those things that slipped through the cracks on them.”

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While Piloseno had served as a senior sales associate for three years with Sherwin-Williams, his role at Florida Paints is higher up the chain. The TikTok star will take up a post in the firm’s sales and operation department. Even more excitingly, he’s being given his very own space to experiment in and create a new range of paints.

And Piloseno’s million-plus TikTok followers will be pleased to hear that unlike his old employer, Florida Paints is on board with his social media activity. But what does that mean for Piloseno’s studies now that he’s working all the way over in Florida? Well, Ohio University has allowed him to complete the degree remotely.

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The $2,365 raised by Piloseno’s GoFundMe campaign for new paint supplies will now be reserved for the relocation to the Sunshine State. And the 22-year-old couldn’t be more grateful for all the support he’s received. He told BuzzFeed News, “I just want to say I really do appreciate all the fans and my audience for having my back – for seeing my side of things.”

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