Kevin Ashley: The Man Who Co-Founded Java House And 748 Air Services

Kevin Ashley: The Man Who Co-Founded Java House And 748 Air Services
Kevin Ashley Image/Courtesy

By Isaac Blessings

Coffee is fast becoming a favorite beverage in Kenya. Although tea still remains the dominant beverage in the country, coffee intake has increased thanks to the many coffee houses that dot Nairobi. Java House is one of the oldest coffee joints in the country. A good number of Kenyans don’t know the brains behind this success story. 

Worry no more because in this article, WoK brings you the story of Kevin Ashley – the man who co-founded Java house.

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Kevin Ashley Background

Kevin Ashley was born in the United States of America (USA). His parents are of Irish descent. He attended Pepperdine University and graduated in 1987 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. After clearing his education, he got a job at World Food Program (WFP) in 1993 as a  Field Monitor for 10 months before being promoted to Liaison officer in July 1994. He worked in the position for 13 months. He called it quits and relocated to Kenya in July 1995.

Moving to Kenya

After landing in Kenya, he got a job at Nuba Relief, Rehabilitation and Development Organization (NRRDO) in January 1996 where he worked as a Capacity Building Officer. NRRDO is a Sudanese Humanitarian organization that provides the people of the Nuba Mountains with food, education, clothing and other basic needs. The organization has its headquarters at the 4th floor of All African Conference of Churches Building in Nairobi, Kenya. He worked for the company for 25 months. He quit in January 1998 to start a career in the business world.

Establishing 748 Air Services

Four months after quitting his job, he teamed up with his friend Ahmed Rashid Jibril to establish 748 air services in May 1998. 748 air service was established in the remote village of Lokichogio, North Eastern province, with the aim of supporting the United Nations’ effort of helping the Sudanese people that were affected with the second Sudanese Civil war between the Sudanese government and South Sudanese rebels. The first aircraft they bought was known as a Hawker Siddeley 748 workhorse, which was both a passenger and freighter aircraft. After the end of the Sudanese war, the two founders came up with the idea of setting up an airline, hence the birth of 748 air services. The company has grown from one single aircraft to become one of the most reliable air charter companies in the East African region, catering to the humanitarian sector, natural resource sector and government institutions. Currently the company owns 12 aircrafts, travels to over 78 destinations and has employed up to 250 people.

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Also Read: Obado Obadoh: The Ex-Chang’aa Seller Who Now Owns The Popular Café Deli Restaurants In Nairobi 

Founding Java House

During the same period he was running the humanitarian missions with 748 air services, Kevin Ashley teamed up with his friend Jon Wagner to establish Java House in 1999. They established the first café at Adams Arcade along Ngong road which specialized mainly in preparing authentic coffee and became a major success. He oversaw the growth of the company from a single brand in Nairobi, Kenya to the best and most successful chain of coffee restaurants in the East African region. During his time at the helm of its leadership, Java grew to open other subsidiaries including the Italian Pizza chain known as 360 degrees pizza and the first ever East African self-service frozen yogurt known as Planet Yogurt. Currently Java house has over 80 outlets across East Africa, employing over 2,500 people and serves up to 20,000 guests every day.

Leaving Java House and what he is up to

In 2012, Kevin Ashley completed a successful share sale to a Private Equity Company known as Emerging Capital Partners which owns the Art Cafe restaurants and remained as the Executive Chairman. In September 2017, he sold his remaining shares of Java house to the Abraaj Group. Currently he is an Entrepreneur owning the Mercury Lounge and a Hospitality consultant. He is a Specialist in Startups especially in the hospitality and transportation sectors.

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