Glacier Park Collection

Jessica Sturm has built an impressive career in the outdoor recreation industry, demonstrating versatility and dedication in roles ranging from river guide to retail operations director. Growing up in West Glacier, Montana, her journey began early, inspired by her father, Mike Cooney, who has spent nearly forty years as the General Manager of the Glacier Raft Company.

Early Beginnings and Family Influence

From a young age, Sturm spent her summers immersed in the West Glacier work environment alongside her father. "I wasn't quite old enough to really work for the raft company, but I helped out a couple of preseason summers just setting up the gift shops and things," she recalls. It wasn’t until she was 17 that she officially joined the workforce, starting as a photo runner for a local photography business, which involved hiking to capture rafting moments multiple times a day.

Career Progression and Skills Development

Sturm's career evolved from these early experiences. By the age of 20, she was both guiding rafts and taking photographs. These dual roles honed her skills in patience and adaptability, crucial traits she credits for her later success. "Being on the boat with different people multiple times a day helped me learn to adjust how I interact with people," she says.

After several years of guiding and working in photography, Sturm transitioned to more stable roles. She embraced a position in the Glacier Raft Company’s office, where she eventually took on responsibilities in retail buying and operations management. Her determination and competence led her to pursue new opportunities, culminating in a role as operations manager at Pursuit in 2016. Sturm’s skills and leadership were recognized, and she was promoted to Director of Retail Operations in 2022.

Balancing Work and Personal Life

Balancing a demanding career with family life is no small feat, yet Sturm manages it with grace. Her daughter, now 16, is following in her footsteps, beginning her journey in the outdoor industry as a photographer and photo runner. "It’s a little surreal... but it’s exciting to see her get involved," she shares.

“I think it'll be a fun way to connect with my daughter,” she adds. “If she's spending more time in West Glacier, she can kind of see why I am the way that I am.”

Sturm’s personal life is also bustling in other ways as she prepares to welcome another child. She emphasizes the importance of a supportive work environment that understands that life also happens outside of work. "Pursuit has been very supportive of family commitments," she says. “There is a culture around here of family first.”

Growing the Business

Sturm’s role involves overseeing multiple retail locations, presenting its own set of challenges and rewards. Transitioning from a hands-on operational role to a leadership position required her to develop new skills in management and coaching. Despite these challenges, she has successfully expanded her team and increased sales, driving significant growth for Pursuit's retail division.

Sturm sometimes finds herself in awe of how far she has come. “I never in a million years imagined that this would be my life's path,” she says. “It sometimes just kind of blows my mind that I'm doing all this because I never really thought that I had it in me.”

Advice for Aspiring Professionals

For those looking to enter the outdoor recreation and retail management fields, especially women, Sturm offers this advice: "Hard work does pay off. Showing up, doing a good job, and staying committed even when days are hard is the best advice I could give."

Future Aspirations

Sturm looks forward to further growth within Pursuit and continues to enjoy the recreational activities that first drew her to the industry. She envisions more opportunities for expansion and new retail concepts, alongside a balanced and fulfilling family life.

Jessica Sturm’s career is a testament to the power of hard work, adaptability and staying true to one’s roots. Her journey from a young photo runner to a director of retail operations is not just about professional success but also about maintaining a deep connection to the outdoor world she loves as she guides a family legacy.

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