The Ongoing Challenge of COVID-19: Sarrut Ouk of Galacticenter Bodyworks

By Shayna Mace | Photography by Shalicia Johnson

Sarrut Ouk, owner of Galacticenter Bodyworks

When Sarrut Ouk opened Galacticenter Bodyworks, her massage and bodywork studio in April 2019, she was excited about finally owning her own business. Little did she know that less than a year later, the economy (and her business) would come to a screeching halt.

“In mid-March, I completely shut down. So, I had to call and cancel everybody that was booked out since I’m usually [booked out] two to three weeks ahead. From there it became, ‘What am I going to do about income and bills? ’” explains Ouk.

Luckily for Ouk, she had other skillsets she could tap into during this time — namely, her experience in project management, graphic design and teaching group fitness classes.

“Design became high in demand because everyone was figuring out what to do during this time. So clients started digging out ideas from the back burner and started pursuing business ideas — and they needed a logo [designed]. So, I was actually lined up with projects back to back!” she says.

Ouk says she also taught WERQ dance fitness classes via Zoom for small donations, as well as instructed virtual workout classes for Harbor Athletic Club. For Ouk, being busy and still being able to work was wonderful — but there was a downside to being a freelance worker during this time. Ouk says she still hasn’t received any unemployment benefits for April or May because her gig work is still being verified, nor has she received any PPP funds. She was, however, able to get the We’re All In Small Business Grant from. WEDC and an Ethnic Minority Emergency Grant through the State of Wisconsin that has helped tide her and her wife over.

After she reopened in June, Ouk admits it’s been a struggle, since she’s meeting one-on-one with clients in a 175-square-foot studio in Monona. She estimates she’s only working part-time right now.

“Currently I can only see only four to five people a day with the current safety guidelines. But, people are hesitant to be in close vicinity for that long. For some people, it’s not relaxing to have to wear a mask.”

Ouk still does design and teaches fitness classes to stay afloat. And she’s staying positive, connecting with other small business owners and planning Galacticenter’s future, which may include educational events and workshops.

“Knowing that I’m not the only [small business] going through this has helped … The hardest part of all of this has been the unknown and having to spend all of this time piecing stuff together and making things work. But I’m just going to keep going and doing it — I’m not the type to just sit around and wait for answers to come.”

See more stories from The Ongoing Challenge of COVID-19 here.

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