Purpose: This paper sets out to promote individual enterprise responsibility and provide recommendations that will strengthen the relationship between large firms and small businesses involved in minority supplier development programs in the USA. Design/methodology/approach: The groundwork for the empirical study comprised a literature review of existing perspectives on the assisted growth and development of businesses owned by minorities. Findings: Support is found for programs that help disadvantaged groups to succeed but opposition to preferential treatment is also evident. Several firms that have noteworthy minority supplier development programs are identified. Recommendations are provided to further develop the relationship between large suppliers and small businesses owned by minorities. Research limitations/implications: Future research should use organizational case studies to provide a more detailed analysis of outcomes and the role of minority supplier development programs. Practical limitations: It is not the intention in this work to present recommendations that will increase procurement contracts for ethnic business enterprises. Originality/value: This paper offers several starting-points, which are critical to building successful relationships between suppliers and small businesses owned by minorities. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.