Buckaroo Leatherworks is more than just a tool belt manufacturer. It’s an icon that embodies the ethos: “If you aren’t doing a job right, don’t bother doing it at all.” A brand with this heart and personality is not built overnight. Buckaroo traces its humble beginnings to Cape Town, South Africa, 1971. It was here that a Costs and Works Accountant – Ken Van Der Water - turned his leatherwork passion into a small shop called ‘The Leather Nook’.
Ken started as a one-man-band. He crafted and restored beautiful leather goods.
In the late 1970’s Ken and his family moved to Australia and Buckaroo became the definition of a family business. Ken continued as a one-man-band in Buckaroo’s early days, but eventually went on to employ several craftsmen and a few small sets of hands (aka his children) who created plaited and laced belts in exchange for pocket money. It was during this time that Ken passed on key business principles such as product costing and quality systems to his daughter Tanya Van Der Water.
The Buckaroo Signature Belt
The early 90’s saw the business flourish and demand for quality goods escalated.
This growth was challenged in the late 90’s when the Australian Government opened the floodgates to a host of imported products from China. Buckaroo struggled to compete with dirt-cheap competitor prices as Australian consumers came to value low prices over quality.
In 1999 however, a seemingly simple request by two Maori tradesmen changed the course of the Buckaroo business. The tradesmen walked into Buckaroo and gave the Van Der Water’s a simple brief: they wanted a tool belt that was comfortable, high quality and had back support. And because they were Maori, it had to be ‘All Black’.
From this brief came Buckaroo’s best-seller – the Signature Tradesman Back Support Tool Belt. This tool belt was designed with the same base-tool belt and could be worn by tradesmen from different trades. Ken went on to create separate tool holders and pouches that could be attached to the belt to hold unique tools of the trade for each tradesman.
This design revolutionised the way tradesman carried their tools and ushered a new era for Buckaroo and the industry.
In 2002, Ken’s daughter Tanya joined him at the leadership helm, providing a fusion of the old and new and catapulting Buckaroo into the 21st century. When Ken passed away in 2012, Tanya took the reins completely, along with a dedication to keeping true to Buckaroo’s core values of integrity, collaboration, dedication, innovation and above all, family.
Tanya was later joined by her husband Cesar and together with their team they created a new foundation from which the business would achieve global success. Today the company is a thriving exporter with products available worldwide and Tanya and Cesar continue to operate respectful of the Buckaroo legacy that is to one day be continued on by their children.