For the second year in a row, Ellis County will be represented in the Mrs. America Pageant.

It was last year’s Mrs. Kansas, Cassie Hickel of Hays, who encouraged Anissa Pfeifer to compete for the 2018 state crown.

Pfeifer owns the Blue Heron Boutique, 719 Main, with her sister, Sonia Larcom, and provided clothing for Hickel.

While working with Hickel one day, Pfieifer joked she should enter the pageant.

But Hickel and Larcom encouraged her to do just that. Larcom convinced her sister she had a story that would inspire other women.

Pfeifer and Larcom, then 22 and 21, respectively, first opened the Blue Heron in Hill City in 2015. Less than a year later, they opened a second store in Hays at 1013 Main, and relocated to the historic Philip Hardware store earlier this year.

“I didn’t have a business degree and I didn’t have a fashion degree. I had a love for women and a love for making women feel beautiful and helping them feel confident,” Pfeifer said.

“We get a lot of email or a lot of girls will reach out and they see what we’re doing, see how young we are, that it’s not just about clothes,” she said.

Larcom said she encouraged her sister because she knew it would be a challenge for her. Fifty percent of the competition is based on an interview, according the pageant’s website, and Pfeifer said her biggest fear is public speaking.

“She has always told me, ‘You're gonna have learn how to talk people, and on a bigger scale,’ ” Pfiefer said.

Larcom said she knew her sister would grow from the pageant.

“I was just excited for that journey, to go through something that challenges you, win or lose, it’s going to be a great experience,” Larcom said.

“When you see someone has a gift, sometimes you have to tell them ‘You have a gift and you need to pursue that.’ Sometimes people can’t see it in themselves,” she said.

In addition to her sister, Pfeifer said her husband, Marcus, encouraged her, too.

“He just has this confidence in me,” she said.

“Every time I felt like I failed, he knew I was just making that next step to find out what I was meant to do,” she said.

“I love him for that,” Pfeifer said.

So without any pageant experience and despite her fear, Pfeifer entered the June 23 contest and was crowned Mrs. Kansas at its end.

“I never went expecting to win. I went to give myself confidence,” she said.

“It’s not always about the crown, it’s about what you do with the opportunity,” she said.

Pfeifer is taking the opportunity of her title to give others confidence with her platform of women’s empowerment. She will have speaking engagements and other events with her sponsors, Potter Plastic Surgery and the Paisley Pear, as well as with the Blue Heron.

“It's amazing because so much of what we do with the store and who I am is inspiring others and wanting women to follow their dreams,” Pfeifer said.

“I don't always have all the answers, but I can be a support system, and I think that in itself is huge because women feel like sometimes we can't share our dreams because people like to shoot them down or they think they're silly or whatever, and I think just being in a support system for people is more inspiration then anything,” Pfeifer said.

Pfeifer will represent Kansas at the Mrs. America pageant Aug. 18 to 25 in Las Vegas.