An Entrepreneur Who Broke the Mold Offers Lessons for Big and Small
AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli
An Entrepreneur Who Broke the Mold Offers Lessons for Big and Small
AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli
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“Watching paint dry” has always been synonymous with “boring.” At least, it was until Tony Piloseno threw out the rule book. His paint-mixing obsession took paint from being “old and boring” to being “new and exciting” for 1.2 million TikTok followers.

“He does this crazy art,” Florida Paints co-founder Don Strube – who is also Piloseno’s new boss – told me. “I don’t know exactly where he’ll end up here – he may go into marketing, sales, or operations – but he’s a gem because he makes paint so much fun.”

A paint entrepreneur

Piloseno’s story began with a part-time job at a Sherwin-Williams store, according to what he told Buzzfeed News. Earning money while attending college in Ohio, the young man realized that he absolutely loved paint – and that his obsession had ignited passion among a massive following of current and future paint buyers. Seeing an opportunity for Sherwin-Williams to benefit from his discovery, Piloseno’s store manager encouraged the young entrepreneur to approach the corporate marketing department. Unfortunately, a corporate marketing employee didn’t see things the same way; he told Piloseno that his work didn’t fit into the company’s promotions strategy. To add injury to insult, a month later the company fired Piloseno for “gross misconduct” for using his company discount to purchase the paint he mixed.

Sherwin-Williams’ response might have crushed some people’s dreams. Other people might have had an online tantrum. What Piloseno did was continue to mix his paint, building his brand and base, keeping his dream alive while deciding how to approach his future. When he finally did go public to Buzzfeed News, it was with a story that made him an Internet star – and, within a week, landed him a job with Florida Paints.

Tony did everything right, from what he told Buzzfeed. He bought paint with his company discount. He gave his employer the right of first refusal and, after they rejected him, continued to work for the company without making a fuss. He acted like an entrepreneur…and Sherwin-Williams acted like a stodgy corporation. To make matters worse, once Tony made his firing public, Sherwin-Williams told Buzzfeed that a customer complaint brought Tony’s alleged transgressions to light. Contrast that with Don, who in our phone call described Tony as “very mature” with “wisdom for a 22-year old.”

Breaking the mold

Piloseno and Strube got to know each other after Piloseno was fired. Strube’s Millennial and Gen Z-aged daughters had already become two of Tony’s 1.2 million followers on TikTok, and after a Zoom call Strube was hooked. A day later, Piloseno was on a plane from Ohio to Florida, and now Piloseno plans to finish his college degree virtually while working at Florida Paints.

This could have been the Piloseno and Sherwin-Williams story. The young entrepreneur wanted to present his paint-mixing followers as a marketing and promotion opportunity for Sherwin-Williams – after all, today’s college students are the paint buyers of the next half-century. Instead, they acted like a stodgy corporation, costing themselves possibly billions of dollars in future revenue. Contrast this with Strube, who in our phone call described Tony as “very mature” with “wisdom for a 22-year old.”

Don and Tony have a bright future together. The experienced businessman and the young, tech-savvy entrepreneur who share a love for paint and what it brings to the world. They’re going to help millions of people see paint as fun, dynamic, and fascinating, and change how paint is perceived in Florida and around the world.

“The message is – you can try to spreadsheet everything, but the most important thing is to keep your eyes open,” Don told me. “Don’t get jaded, don’t let your preconceived notions get in the way. With streamlining comes missed opportunities, and you miss gems.”

Dustin Siggins is CEO of Proven Media Solutions and a business columnist.

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