Denver's Zen Magnets Is Fighting the Federal Government Over Its Ban of Tiny Magnet Balls

Smart and self-assured, with jet-black hair and the faintest of goatees, Shihan Qu is the reigning king of magnet balls. His ascension to the throne wasn't so much the result of hard-won battles against other magnet magnates as it was the outcome of a process of elimination. While other companies that sold powerful BB-sized magnets, most often marketed as adult desk toys, folded under pressure from the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission, the 27-year-old Qu has stood firm, willing to take on the feds all by himself.

Last month, he sat in his rented Denver office to watch the CPSC make a decision that would have big consequences for Zen Magnets, the company he founded five years ago. The meeting was taking place 1,600 miles away in a staid boardroom in Bethesda, Maryland, and being live-streamed online for anyone who wanted to watch it. Qu did.

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Melanie Asmar is a staff writer for Westword. She joined the paper in 2009 and has won awards for her stories about education, immigration and epic legal battles. Got a tip? She'd love to hear it.
Contact: Melanie Asmar