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HomeGrown: Dee Haslam, RIVR Media CEO & Founder

10:37 PM, Sep 4, 2012   |    comments
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"I feel like I'm the shoe-maker's daughter. You just do what your dad did."

As CEO of RIVR Media, Dee Bagwell Haslam has certainly lived up to the family name. And there are dozens of Emmy-award winning shows on cable to prove it.

"RIVR Media has just a wonderful group of creative, fun people and it just makes waking up everyday and coming to work a great thing to do."

Dee got her first taste of television at a very young age.

"My father went to NYU and worked for NBC. And the first show I was on was the "Howdy Doody Show." Our life really centered around my dad's business and career."

Dee and her husband, Jimmy Haslam, went to high school together, but didn't date until college.

"He says he remembers the exact moment when he saw me. I have no idea when I first met him. It's very sweet that he says that."

At the University of Tennessee, she majored in art, specifically graphic design.

"Both my brother and myself wanted to go to Los Angeles or New York or somewhere else and work in the television business just for the experience."

However, she and Jimmy got married after graduation.

"Obviously, he has a family business and we have a family business and it turned out really well for both of us to stay here."

At Cinetel, her father's company, Dee fell in love with television production. It was sold to Scripps in 1994.

"So we left the company and started a small production company."

In the late '90s, Rob Lundgren came on board and they renamed the company RIVR Media.

"We've had a great run and are having a great time."

RIVR's credits include dozens of reality television shows for 16 different cable networks. And the company has grown to include internet and film production.

"We talk about at RIVR that we're so good we can live anywhere we want to live, because that's how good we feel we are at our craft. We pick Knoxville. We pick it because we really love it."

She followed in her father's footsteps. "He's excited that I've stayed in the business."

But Dee also credits her grandmother and mother for strong business sense.

"I don't know if very many people know this, but my mom worked with my dad for most of his career."

And, as a mother of three, Dee has offered this career advise to her children:

"Love what you do, be happy in what you do and give back. We've been very fortunate to be able to give back to Knoxville."

These days, Dee's balancing her time between Knoxville and Cleveland after her husband recently purchased controlling interest in the Browns NFL team.

"The Cleveland Browns has been one of the most fun things you can imagine... a life long dream. There's a lot of orange, so my wardrobe worked really well."

And even though she has a no-nonsense business approach, Dee says she's gotten better with age and experience.

"I've gotten softer, more understanding, empathetic, encouraging... I just enjoy the journey."

Dee Haslam...

"I'm really happy I grew up in Knoxville and decided to build a career here."

HomeGrown in Tennessee.

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