Kickin' It with Pure Adirondacks
We love the Adirondacks, but this team has taken that passion to the next level. Evan and Hilary Williams of Pure Adirondacks have shared their love of the Adirondacks with the world through stunning photography, video and Adirondack-inspired goods. What started as a hobby has now turned into a full-time gig, with their stories reaching millions of people. We caught up with them to see what inspires and motivates them, how they got where they are today, and to see if they’d tell us their favorite secret spots in the Park.
Sidekick: You've found a way to turn your love of the outdoors (the Adirondacks in particular) into a career. How did you decide to take your passion full-time?
Evan & Hilary: It was definitely a very gradual process, with the different life experiences and people I met along the way helping to ultimately make the decision to go full-time with my own business. While some people have a very clear vision on their career path, I was very much the opposite — I had a lot of interests and skills, but I hadn’t figured out an obvious path to take. After several years of working for different companies in marketing from the Caribbean to Central NY, I decided I wanted to give my own business a go. While PureADK initially was an outdoor-focused blog for my wife and I to document our experiences around the Adirondacks, it gradually evolved into a “brand” as we made a shift into developing our own products with Adirondack-inspired designs. Once I was getting enough momentum with sales on our online shop and taking on enough freelance photography and videography projects, I made the decision to leave my full-time job to pursue my passions.
Taking that leap is a dream for a lot of people, but it can be intimidating. What would you say to someone looking to take their passion to the next level?
Follow your gut. It might not be a decision you can make instantly, but stay determined and keep chipping away at your craft even if you’ve got to find other ways to pay the bills in the meantime. There’s never really a “perfect” time. It comes down to making a decision and having the courage to go after your passion. There’s always going to be doubters, so you’ve just got to block them out and keep pushing forward. You’re also going to have those tough days and challenges you face — these are moments you just need to embrace and learn from, and then you get back to the drawing board.
Does it ever seem like the line between your work and personal life gets blurred? How do you maintain that balance and still find the energy to explore?
Yes, this definitely happens. When you’ve got your own business, you can be very connected to every aspect of it, which makes it difficult to disconnect and “clock out” for the day. For me, I’ve found that dedicating time to social gatherings with family/friends and a daily dose of exercise really helps keep me focused and energized. A lot of my work involves screen time on the computer and phone, so building in time each day/weekend to unplug goes a long way in maintaining a healthy balance.
You are two people with the skills of a much larger team. You're photographers, videographers, content creators, bloggers, and purveyors of custom Adirondack-inspired goods. Is all of that creativity and marketing savvy self-taught?
A lot of it is self-taught and thanks to the internet and people we’ve met along the way, we’ve been inspired to keep improving in all areas. We can attribute a lot of it to being willing to constantly learn — which includes learning from mistakes made along the way. I look back at some of my early videos of our hiking trips and cringe. The quality is nothing compared to what we put out today. But again, we all have to start somewhere. The key is gradually making improvements, adjustments, and pivots along the way. We also understand our weaknesses and delegate to others that are much more skilled and experienced than us to tackle certain needs for our business. For example, graphic design for a specific project provided by Sidekick Creative :)
The Adirondacks are near and dear to our hearts, but they seem to be ingrained in both of you! What do you find most inspiring about these six million acres?
The variety in terrain that offers endless opportunities for recreation of all types is truly inspiring. From lakes and bogs to small mountain streams and old giant peaks, there is so much to explore! We’ve traveled to some very beautiful and unique places around the world and we always find ourselves drawn back to the Adirondacks.
Hilary, you work full-time in environmental consulting. Did you ever consider a different career path?
Exploring the outdoors and appreciating our natural world were ideals that were instilled in me from a young age. An environmental course in high school sealed the deal for me and I knew that I wanted to pursue some sort of career in environmental science. Consulting wasn’t actually on my radar until my college career fair when I, like many students, realized that the span of careers available was much larger than I imagined.
Evan, similar question: before pursuing PureADK full-time, did you see yourself in a different career?
Yes, I was definitely very conflicted about the direction I wanted to take, so I pondered a lot of different career options. I had a few sports injuries, so physical therapy crossed my mind. I’ve always enjoyed playing and watching sports, so other options came into my mind from working at ESPN to being a physical education teacher. However, I always found myself wanting to be my own boss and being able to create flexibility into my schedule where I could work from almost anywhere and make a sustainable income, and that’s where my entrepreneurial gene took charge.
Looking back, what's one thing you wish you knew before you started your business?
That it’s better to outsource your accounting to an actual bookkeeper/accountant. In the early stages, we tried keeping track of the books and filing our own taxes to save money by not having to pay someone else as another expense. Looking back, by paying someone (like we do today), we probably would have ended up saving money in the long run.
Any exciting trips on the radar for 2019? How about plans for the business?
Our current home base is just north of Syracuse, NY, for Hilary’s job, so as always we’ll be making frequent trips to explore the Adirondacks throughout the year. We always like to try to mix in a new destination each year for vacation (last year was Newfoundland), so this year we’ll be headed to Hawaii. As for business plans, we are looking to continue to expand on our product offerings in our online store, develop more wholesale relationships with local retailers, and attend more festivals/events as a vendor. On the media side, Evan will continue to work with businesses, events, and non-profits as time allows. For example, each year he captures all the video and photography for the Cycle Adirondacks events.
Favorite vista for fall foliage? Castle Rock
Suggestion for a scenic paddle? Cedar River Flow
Best spot for wildlife sightings? In a canoe or kayak. There are plenty of opportunities to see birds and other wildlife on the shoreline since you can be very quiet in your boat.
Most treasured trail? Silver Lake Mountain. We’ve been up it a bunch of times in different seasons. It’s a shorter climb with a rewarding view and it’s far away from any major villages, so typically you won’t see this being a busy hike.
Best bet for a beer or a burger? We always enjoy grabbing food and a drink at Lake Placid Pub & Brewery. When we’re out in the central-western Adirondacks, we typically have to make a stop at Screamen Eagle & Matt’s Draft House. The wings and pizza are delicious. Plus, there are 50 beers on tap.
How can we find out more about Pure Adirondacks?
To learn more about us, browse our collection of ADK-inspired goods, and check out our Adirondack adventures, you can visit our website and online store - PureAdirondacks.com.