Local dive shop Phoenix Scuba offers certification classes for local divers but what’s truly drawing people into to the shop is its owner.
Kelly Fischer, 54, is both instructor and owner of Phoenix Scuba. Her nurturing and selfless approach to helping others has earned her a reputation as one of the top dive instructors in the valley. Her business has a five star rating on Yelp and a 4.8 star rating on Google Plus.
A Phoenician since 1968, Kelly Fischer said it was never her intention to become a dive instructor. She sufferers from claustrophobia and pushed herself to become comfortable underwater. She previously worked as a corporate credit analyst for American Express. Scuba was a passion of her husband, Steve. It wasn’t until she went on dive trip to Seal Island in California did she truly grow a passion for the sport.
In 2002, Kelly Fischer opened her first dive shop Paradise Scuba. Three years later, she and her husband decided to become instructors. It was in her training that she noticed only three of the 40 students in her class were women. She said it was in that moment she felt a responsibility to become a course director to encourage women to take leadership roles in the sport.
“It [Diving] takes some nurturing and just being there as a calming presence. Being a mom. I really think at the end of the day that’s it. I think as a woman, I bring something to the table that men don’t which is that nurturing quality,” Kelly Fischer said.
Kelly Fischer loves her job and understands it’s the community she’s built that drives her business. Her students and coworkers say it’s her gracious attitude and ability to understand others, which keeps them coming back as customers. Kelly Fischer feels she’s not building a community but a dive family.
“I think the interaction whether it be a bowling night or whether it be a dive trip, it is the interaction between people. It is the sharing of experiences. It is the getting to know one another. I think as humans we need to connect.” Kelly Fischer said.
She knows that without a connection to the people she serves, her shop would cease to exist.
“As a business owner, I have to look at my bottom line but without that family, without that community, there is no business,” Kelly Fischer added.
Steve Fischer, 58, is a fire captain paramedic with Rural Metro Fire and an instructor at Phoenix Scuba. He is also Kelly Fischer’s husband. He says their mission as a couple was to create a dive community like there was in the 1970s. They wanted to unite like-minded divers that cared about the environment and safety of their fellow divers.
“We both really think that is one thing we are kind of missing in today’s world. Everything is disconnected. People can pretty much find what they want at the click of a button on a computer and the only thing really missing is interaction with people,” Steve Fischer said.
Kelly Fischer believes when divers care about one another, they will look out for the welfare of their dive buddy. She says her favorite teaching moments is helping others feel safe in overcoming their fears.
“I had one student, it took me nine months working with her about every weekend in the pool to help her feel confident enough to go out to Lake Pleasant and finish her open water dives,” Kelly Fischer said.
She says every time she sees a student grasp the concepts taught in her classroom she feels truly accomplished.
“I have so much fun seeing that smile and that excitement once someone realizes they can breath underwater. And that it’s not at hard as they thought it would be,” Kelly Fischer said.
Dan Veno, 66, is a retired high school administrator and Professional Association of Diving Instructors dive master. He feels that Kelly Fischer’s remarkable ability to instill confidence in her students creates safer certified divers within the sport. Veno said Kelly Fischer protects her students by giving them a thorough education.
“What I admire about her is that she has done it thousands of times. She is a good teacher. She explains things. It’s not boring and dry. And it could be very dry. She gets them excited about diving,” Veno said.
Veno mentioned that dive shops in Phoenix are extremely competitive. Kelly Fischer often works seven days a week. Even when the shop is closed, she is working to create a seamless educational experience for her students. Veno said her hard work is even recognized by their competition.
“The more I talk to divers from other shops they are known and they are respected,” Veno said.
Phoenix Scuba has instructed more then 3,500 students since the company was founded 10 years ago. The shop hosts several dive trips every year. Kelly Fischer dedicated the most recent trip in September to a 70-year-old former student, Claudia Smith, who recently finished cancer treatment. The trip was aptly called “Claudia Kicked Cancer’s Ass.”
David Marsh, 45, is a videographer and filmmaker that attended the trip. He received his PADI advanced open water and digital photography certification on the trip. He said it was Kelly Fischer’s compassion that added to whole experience.
“Kelly gave us a sense of community. Our tribe had a common goal and a common mission and that was to see Claudia finish her dives,” Marsh said.
Mark Sampang, 43, is a dentist and a PADI certified rescue diver. He completed his training with Phoenix Scuba and is preparing to start the dive master program this month. He also went on the trip to Cozumel.
“The thing that is really great about Kelly is she is so passionate about what she does and you can tell she isn’t in it for the money. She just loves doing it and it shows in everything she does,” Sampang said.
He said her passion for her work is infectious.
“I think they are very selfless generous people you don’t find a lot like them. You really don’t any more. I think when you find somebody like that in any field or any occupation, someone who loves what they do as much as they do; you want to stick with people like that,” Sampang added.
Kelly Fischer still feels like her work isn’t done. She has big plans for the future of her business including starting a program for wounded veterans through the Phoenix Department of Veterans Affairs. Both of Kelly Fischer’s sons have served in the military. She wants to give back.
Phoenix Scuba has a half a dozen students that are veterans suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder.
“For us it’s ‘let’s help these guys out.’ Let’s you know, let them feel better even if it’s for a little while,” Kelly Fischer said.
Steve Fischer said he has seen in his students how scuba can help.
“We have one gentleman, when he is having a bad day he knows that he can come over and jump in the pool. It’s one of those things where I’ll joke, ‘how many tanks do you want?’ He’ll spend five hours underwater in the pool, he comes out, and you just watch the stress drop off him,” Steve Fischer said.
When asked about what Kelly Fischer enjoys when she’s not working she struggled to answer. Then her face lit up and she gave the same answer as before, family.
“One thing I like to do outside of scuba is my grandchildren. I have two grandsons and they are a year old and 3 years old. So, being able to spend time with them and watch them grow that’s important to me,” Kelly Fischer said.
She confessed that outside of work she enjoys being with her husband.
“There is the scuba side of me but the person outside of here is just a quiet homebody that enjoys spending time with her husband,” Kelly Fischer added.
Striking a balance between work and home can be challenging for any couple but Steve and Kelly Fischer both say it’s good relationship.
“Sometimes it is a little frustrating when I do something one way and she’ll do something a different way. But you know everyone has there own approach. So, other then the occasional bumping heads we work together very well. It’s fun working with her,” Steve Fischer said.
He feels her positivity is what makes people gravitate toward her.
“She is very bubbly, she’s always upbeat. Even when she is having a bad day she is more upbeat then most people are normally. She’s just got one of those personalities that people enjoy being around. She is not putting demands on anybody she’s not asking anybody for anything. They just enjoy being around her because she’s fun,” Steve Fischer said.
Despite the praise from everyone around her, she doesn’t credit herself with her students’ success.
“I’m not going to take credit for it. I’m glad to be a part of it and that I’m able to create it,” Kelly Fischer said.