Andrea Kihlstedt: 50-plus Entrepreneur

Do What You Do Best: But More of It.

For Andrea Kihlstedt, attaining success over the age of 50 was less about re-inventing herself than about reinventing her approach. She didn’t quit a job as a nurse or teacher and decide to launch a restaurant. Instead, she used the skills she’d been developing all along.

Kihlstedt had a thriving career as a fundraising consultant. Over the years, she’d become a superstar asker, a bringer of “yes”es. She was marketing herself to clients, and wanted a way of expanding, directly reaching the general public. First she published the book Capital Campaigns, Strategies That Work and How to Raise $1 Million (or More) in 10 Bite Size Steps. What happened next was the quantum leap.

Kihlstedt studied at Brown, UPenn, and the Gestalt International Study Center, but describes herself as a student of human nature. During her time as a fundraising consultant, she employed personal charisma, insights into human nature, and a keen sense of craft to develop many successful techniques. Those same qualities served her well when she became an entrepreneur.

A Bigger Reach

Having published her book, she decided to branch out a bit further, into the web site realm. Rather than plunging into some unfamiliar territory, she decided to teach her asking style. Well, something like that. Instead, the site she launched with partner Brian Saber,, gives visitors a chance to identify their own asking style. The varieties are Rainmaker, Mission Controller, Go-Getter, and Kindred Spirit. Fundraising professionals fill out a questionnaire, find their style, and ask away.

The site aggressively branched into social media and built up a following of 10K, with a membership of 400. And it’s turning a profit.

Further, Kihlstedt has become a successful speaker and seminar presenter, with such topics as “Lizard Brain, Lion Heart and YOU!” and fundraising in the 21st century. She’d worked with the ACLU, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation , and the Philanthropic Planning Group of Greater New York.

Network with the Under-50’s

One of the methods Kihlstedt employed that business people can learn from is recruiting and assembling a team. The blog, one component of, has become an umbrella for many experts who make their individual competitions. Kihlstedt emphasizes that the brand a business creates is really what matters, not the entrepreneur himself or herself. Branching out and acquiring help is just one pragmatic solution. She also counsels entrepreneurs, particularly those using the Internet, to jump in with both feet and not be afraid to make mistakes.

One of the concepts that Kihlstedt puts into play that can be a great example is keeping up with technology. Over-50 entrepreneurs need to be able to mix it up with the whipper-snappers. This doesn’t mean having a Twitter account or making a Youtube video, but being able to enter the mindset of upcoming technologies and the cultural underpinnings behind them. In a recent interview, Kihlstedt said that traditional fundraising campaigns needed to understand how kickstarter and other 21st century methods of raising money were doing things.

Kihlstedt’s success and the growth of her franchise will almost certainly propel her into success in her 60’s.