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A Nonprofit Director Raises Funds With a Blimpie Franchise


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Robert A. Calvillo
Robert A. Calvillo

In 2012, Affordable Homes of South Texas (AHSTI) director, Bobby Calvillo, knew his organization didn't have the funds to build enough homes to meet the needs of low-income South Texan families. So, he decided to create a revenue stream of his own. He convinced the AHSTI board to build a Blimpie restaurant in Weslaco, Texas, to establish a constant flow of cash for the organization.

Here's how Calvillo decided to open a for-profit franchise to fund a nonprofit organization.

Name: Robert A. Calvillo

Franchise owned: Blimpie, America's Sub Shop in Weslaco, Texas

How long have you owned a franchise?

1 year and 5 months

Why franchising?

As a non-profit social enterprise, we were looking for a business opportunity with minimal startup costs and up-front investment. Franchising seemed the logical choice and it also offered individual and corporate support that could guide us through the startup and general operations of the business. Running a franchise and a non-profit are not all that different from each other, they both are run as a business, but the franchise posed some unique challenges that are new to us.

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What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?

I still function as the executive director of Affordable Homes of South Texas, Inc. (AHSTI), the non-profit that created Esperanza on Fifth, LLC which owns the Blimpie Weslaco franchise. I've been with AHSTI for 19 years.

Why did you choose this particular franchise?

Blimpie offered a smaller franchise fee and in our opinion an overall better product for our downtown market area. It was also important that we worked with a franchise that understood the concept of the unique social enterprise. Blimpie not only understood that concept, but has embraced it and has provided exceptional support for our operation.

How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?

I would estimate about $200,000. This included the build out of the building ($100,000), equipment ($75,000) and the remaining on other startup costs and inventory.

Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?

Most of our advice came from friends, other franchisees and our own internal research from our various departments and experienced staff.

What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?

We had to make sure that we assembled the right team to run the store. It was a challenge in terms of reframing our search parameters. We were looking for individuals with a different set of skills and experience than the non-profit would typically employ. Fortunately, we were able to find the store manager and assistant store manager without much difficulty. The assistant store manager was a previous Blimpie employee for a store in the area that closed which helped tremendously. The manager worked at a different store in the community and had management experience.

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What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?

Everyone knows that researching the market is extremely important, but I would also recommend researching the potential franchisor thoroughly as well. The research should go beyond just finding out franchising fee information. The research should also incorporate some knowledge of the corporate support including the people factor. The business relationship has to be one that can provide benefits for both parties. Finally, you have to love the product. You can't really sell something you don't truly believe in.

What's next for you and your business?

We are hoping to expand upon this franchise. Once the store is stabilized we would like to expand it to other sites and open future stores. We really see the potential, we just need to continue to develop it going forward.

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