Remembering Bowflex Inventor Dosho Tessema Shifferaw

The late Dosho Tessema Shifferaw, CEO of Dosho Design, Inc, and inventor of Bowflex. (Photo: Bizmedia)


Ethiopians Grieve Death of Bowflex Inventor

SAN FRANCISCO – Dosho Tessema Shifferaw, an Ethiopian American entrepreneur who invented Bowflex, a household name in gyms worldwide, was laid to rest on Saturday after he died of a brain tumor on Thursday.

“Shifferaw invented the Bowflex, a home weight machine that uses bendable rods instead of weight plates to provide resistance, in the early 1980s, while trying to design an ergonomic chair for a City College of San Francisco class project. Widely marketed on infomercials, more than $3 billion worth of the machines have been sold over the years. Its success eventually made Shifferaw a multimillionaire,” Lindsay Riddell wrote in the San Francisco Business Times on March 22, 2013.

In 2005, Dosho was a recipient of the US Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) award.

A holder of over 16 patents, Tessema emigrated to the United States when he was 19. He was the son of an army general during the reign of Emperor Haileselassie of Ethiopia.

Upon arrival in the US, Tessema was doubling as a taxi driver and an engineering student at City College of San Francisco, where he accidently discovered the homeweight machine while working on a project for an ergonomic chair for his college.

In 2012, Tessema was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and he was told he may not live long to see his projects bearing fruit.

“They told me that I’d live about five years, may be less, but hopefully more, he told the San Francisco Business Times reporter last year. Dosho is survived by his wife and three children.

Read more at Ethiomedia »

The Bowflex Inventor Story


In a San Francisco cottage 23 years ago T. Dosho Shifferaw, an Ethiopian immigrant and inventor, struggled to design the perfect chair. Stuck and frustrated, he bent a spare metal rod across his shoulders and in that moment stumbled upon the key to transforming America’s home gym workouts.

After discovering that the resistance of the rod created a smooth, muscle-building workout, Shifferaw created the “Bowflex,” one of the nation’s best-known infomercial products.

Shifferaw – who arrived in the United States with just $500 – a multimillionaire. For years, investors refused to back the Bowflex, saying it looked like an octopus or a spider — not like an exercise machine.

“When I initially designed and tried to market it to companies, no one would take it. It was such a different looking product. Some said it looked like a spider, others an octopus. They demanded I make it look like an exercise machine,” recalls Tessema D. Shifferaw, founder, CEO and creative mind behind Dosho Design, Inc.

Instead, the Bowflex went on to become the fastest-selling piece of exercise equipment in the United States with sales pole-vaulting from $10 million in 1995 to $585 million in 2002, nearly doubling each year.

Shifferaw’s most recent inventions include the Windjector, a unique “wind-resistance trainer” and the DoshBell, a Pac-Man-like dumbbell design that clamps on barbells, allowing weights to be adjusted to fro five to 55 pounds, depending on how much effort one wants to put into a workout.

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