Former model, longtime Philadelphia resident aims to empower women in construction

women in construction

Longtime Philadelphia resident Monica Miraglilo has been inspired to reshape the construction industry.

Through her recently launched business venture ‘GirlBuild Lab,’ Miraglilo has created an online educational platform that outlines the basics of home renovation and how to finance projects.

The longtime fashion model, who often traveled internationally, says she was amazed by a lot of the architecture she saw overseas, which led her to become intrigued by interior and exterior design.

“I always had a creative mindset and grew up with a creative mother. I really loved to design and decorate within my home,” she said.

Miraglilo says what brought her into the construction sector was buying her first home for her daughter in the city’s East Falls neighborhood.

“I was a single parent, and when I purchased the home, I did not have a lot of money,” Miraglilo added. “I had basically taken all of the money I had saved from modeling.”

Miraglilo described her daughter’s first home as a “money pit,” which required a substantial amount of work to be done.

But for Miraglilo, that did not stop her vision to reimagine and transform the property into the structures she saw during her six-month stay in Italy.

“I was very frugal. I remember going back and forth to Home Depot and Lowe’s, and I remember asking guys XYZ,” she said. “I took the risk, and it was rewarding. I learned to lay down flooring and tile, hang cabinets, knock down walls, and scrape wallpaper. I just continued to work on my home into something unique and different.”

Buzz soon grew for Miraglilo as she began receiving tons of inquiries from neighboring residents, who were fascinated by the work she had done on the property.

She began taking on design jobs throughout the city and eventually opened up a design shop in Haverford Township called Fill A Pillow, which allowed customers to customize and build unique household items that she compared to the home version of Build-A-Bear Workshop.

Miraglilo was soon approached by her now mentor, Tony Rufo of Rufo Companies, who is a well-known developer in the Philadelphia region.

Inspired by Miraglilo’s work, the two would go on to work together on projects that include the Hawthorne Lofts in the area of 12th and Fitzwater streets and the Brush Factory Lofts near 12th and Jackson streets.

After working on many projects with Rufo and other developers, Miraglilo’s husband had the idea of reimagining their future in real estate development and architecture design by going into business together as a couple.


They started their own construction company, Miraglilo Properties, and have fully developed more than 75 homes in the Philadelphia area.

While achieving much personal success, Miraglilo also wanted to give back and help other women gain access to such a heavily male-dominated industry.

In October 2020, that desire launched the idea of GirlBuild, an empowerment initiative for women in the construction and development industry that aims to grow a community that shares the necessary resources and tools for women to succeed in the construction space.

“I wanted to start GirlBuild for the simple reason that I was given the opportunity to learn from the best. Now I want to give back to women,” said Miraglilo. “I feel as though women are getting into this business more and more every day. They want to become independent, and they want knowledge. Even if they don’t get into the business, if they hire someone, they’ll at least know what they’re talking about and taking advantage of.”

Miraglilo says members will now have the tools to build their homes, lives, and dreams, which also prompted her to launch online recorded construction classes this past October.

“We are the backbone of building everything. We build families and relationships, so what better way than to build each other up?” Miraglilo added.

With Miraglilo’s fashion background, she also provided a vision for construction outfits that are different from the traditionally worn clothing.

She adds that eligible members also have the opportunity through GirlBuild’s private funding to have their first build 100% funded (given 50% of return) without any concerns of credits or capital.

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